By: Bert de Vries, UJP Director, Calvin College
In 2007 the Umm el-Jimal Project (UJP) made a thematic shift away from stress on academic archaeological research to site management with twin foci, preservation and community engagement. Site preservation on the ground was complemented with the virtual kind, digital documentation and archiving of information on the internet. The new visibility of Umm el-Jimal in virtual reality opened new opportunities and directions in site preservation, especially the engagement of the modern community in that process. For we became convinced that all the preservation one could manage to do would be dead-ended as long as the modern community remained disengaged. Thus we engaged the community in two ways: 1) We documented it as the “living” outcome of the archaeological heritage and 2) we involved it in site management and preservation. For a fuller version of this argument see NEA 76, No. 3 (Sept. 2013): 132-140. The following photo essay on the UJP activities in 2014 gives a good cross-section of the work as it has grown in this new direction and also updates our 2012 ASOR blog-post.
Preservation and Site Management Training. Site preservation was at the heart of the UJP projects of 2014, following the strategy of the UJ Site Management Plan. Awda Masa’eid, local stone mason and restoration specialist, celebrates the successful repositioning of ceiling corbels on Room 6, House XVIII. In the spirit of community engagement, the ‘workers’ of seasons past are now future ‘site managers.’
Presentation. House XVII-XVIII, originally two Byzantine houses, were merged into a larger single-purpose Umayyad complex, whose presentation included the placement of six interpretive signs (designed by Open Hand Studios), part of a site-wide interpretive trail being completed in 2015-6.
Celebration. June 6, 2015 U. S. Ambassador Alice Wells came to celebrate the wrap-up of the House XVII-XVII Preservation, enabled by grants from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. Here Muaffaq Hazza explains a feature of the upper levels of House XVIII. See www.blog.ummeljimal.org, “AFCP Grant Wrap Event.”
Gender balancing. 2014 saw the launch of the Women’s Empowerment Project, conceived by UNESCO, funded by UN Women, and carried out in partnership with UJP. Here two UJ women, Ahlam Kurdi and Silwa Masa’eid excavate in the House XVIII courtyard, June 2015.
Heritage Training. In the fall of 2014 Sally de Vries taught the Heritage of Northern Jordan to a class of 23 Umm el-Jimal women. Here she shows them the Cultural Heritage of Jordan on a visit to Tiraz, Widad Kawar’s museum of Arab costumes in Amman.
Archaeology training. Also in the fall 2014 Bert de Vries taught the women Archaeology, including the stratigraphy of Jordan, and the archaeology of Umm el-Jimal, Jerash and Amman. Here he explains the inscriptions on the UJ Barracks Tower.
Craft training. UNESCO “Empowerment” included craft training in embroidery and basalt carving, in a program overseen by al Hima, a Jordanian NGO created by Hazem Malhas for heritage and archaeology based community development. Basalt small object carving ‘graduated’ to marketable items in 2015.
Satisfaction. UNESCO commissioned Open Hand Studios (OHS) to produce a short film on the 2014 Empowerment of Women’s Project. Jeff DeKock, the producer, distributes copies of the film to its stars, June 16, 2015. See http://blog.ummeljimal.org/2015/03/01/womens-empowerment-project-video/
“Teach the Children Well.” This girl was one of 80 children at a drawing contest in the ruins, 18 October 2014, a celebration which drew 130 community members. UJP’s outreach to the children includes an Education Manual for school curriculum (http://www.ummeljimal.org/en/curriculum.html).
Water Reclamation. The UJP-OHS Water Restoration project was launched in 2014 with the mapping of the ancient water collection and storage system by a Yarmouk University team (Abdullah Shorman and Muwafaq Bataineh). Here Muaffaq Hazza ponders the overfull Reservoir No. R1, winter 2013.
Cooperation and Coordination. This collage of ‘brands’ represents the many orgs necessary to make the multi-faceted preservation-and-community program come to reality. Not mentioned are the UJ Women’s Cooperative and the UJ Municipality’s Mayor Hasan Fahed, UJP’s most eager booster.
Enjoyment. The end of the story is joy and enjoyment, here ‘lived’ by Fatima Hazza’s and daughter Ayya’s kiting in the ruins on a breezy day ‘once upon a time’ not long ago.
Social Media. The Umm el-Jimal Website was created by Open Hand Studios in 2012. During 2014 we worked on expanding our media presence Blog, Facebook and Flickr – launched by OHS and in June of 2015. We welcome you to use them for regular visits to UJ and interactions with us.
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