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Platt Fellow Experiences New Cultural Worlds

By: Mariana Garcia de la Noceda, 2012 Platt Fellow

The Middle East is one of the few places in the world where you can be digging in your square, just minding your own business, while there are camels and donkeys walking around the site sniffing the picks and shovels. It’s also one of the few places in the world where people of all faiths, nations and languages can be found working together in the same field for the same reasons. This has been my experience in Tall Jalul, in central Jordan. In my square, which we nicknamed the United Nations, no two people are from the same country, or have the same native tongue. It’s a mix of color and accents that I have never experienced before. And it’s one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had, even if we have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Tall Jalul is one of the largest tells in central Jordan, and it forms part of Andrew’s University’s Madaba Plains Project. It was an important settlement for the Ammonites and Moabites during the Iron Age, and it’s believed that it could be the biblical city of Heshbon.

The Platt Fellowship, awarded to me by ASOR, is what made my journey to Tall Jalul possible. I’m a senior in the University of Puerto Rico, double majoring in History and Archaeology, and before I came to Jordan, I never thought that I would find myself hacking away at a wall of dirt, trying to unearth a cistern from Iron Age II, while a Brazilian held the plumb-bob above me and a Korean swept the soil away. At the same time, our French Canadian square supervisor takes Munsell samples, and shows our American workmate how to do the reading. And all the while, we’re teaching each other useful phrases in different languages.

This hopefully-not-once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity has definitely been one of the turning points in my life. It has proven to me that Archaeology is really what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I owe it all to ASOR.

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