2013 Expedition to Khirbat Iskandar and its Environs

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By: Cassandra Parsons, 2013 Heritage Fellowship Recipient

Normally, my response to the typical back-to-school or September-time question—the dreaded “How was your summer?”— is rather boring. Usually, summers are hot, and I typically work in a local pizza shop almost every day. That wasn’t the case this year, thanks in part to a Heritage Fellowship that the American Schools of Oriental Research awarded me. As a result of ASOR’s grant, I can say that I had the adventure of a lifetime this summer working on the archaeological site of Khirbat Iskandar in Jordan. Although—I’m not sure that that description is entirely accurate, since this summer marked my second season on the site. It really was the second adventure of a lifetime, one of (hopefully) many, and I couldn’t have asked for a better, more exciting experience.

Parsons 1

As this summer was my second season on Khirbat Iskandar, I had a bit of an advantage, in a way, over most of the other participants. I knew that I ought to expect the extremely early mornings, the heat and frustration that often accompany this sort of fieldwork, the seemingly endless amounts of pottery washing and registering but the excitement of a great find amidst the bounty, the massive amount of food served on site (which I’ve learned is quite uncommon in the business), and the friendships that form through it all. Obviously, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Despite the amount of work I knew was ahead of me, I couldn’t wait to get started!

One aspect of my new gig with which I had no experience, however, was my role as square supervisor. In my first season, I was at Khirbat Iskandar as a worker, and I didn’t do much off-site except trace top plans. In the beginning, the responsibilities of a supervisor were a bit daunting. I was tasked with opening a new square—both a relief but also nerve-wracking. The relief came from the fact that I didn’t have to research the previous seasons’ excavations, but the fear set in because everything was left to me and any mistakes would be mine alone. We began excavating with the tentative goal of seeing if any features in the bordering squares to the north and west continued into our square in any way.

It started out a little rough because the square we were assigned was not the one the directors had originally planned on opening, which meant that they hadn’t used the GPS satellites to map out its corners. It took a good portion of the first day to figure out how to string the square correctly. However, it got steadily better from that point on. It took a week or so to get used to all of the extra paperwork and small tasks that come with being in charge of a square. Eventually, though, I settled into a routine and became more comfortable and familiar with the processes of excavating. In the end, we didn’t make any major discoveries in B22. But we found two walls that form a corner and what we believe to be a third wall along the southern end of the square.

For me personally, what I found outside the square was more important: simply, the knowledge and experience that I gained during my time abroad. Both seasons on this site have been truly amazing in their own ways. The first season also marked my first trip abroad, and I was able to explore Madaba to get a fuller experience of another country and culture. This summer, in its way, was much more educational. With my new position, I couldn’t help but learn different skills and information about archaeology and its processes, which all in all fulfilled my personal goals for the season. A second round of Khirbat Iskandar also gave me the opportunity to develop my leadership abilities. Overall, I had a great adventure at the site this summer, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the time.

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