Ad-Deir Plateau Archaeological Survey

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By: Daniel King, 2013 Heritage Fellowship Recipient

This past May, I participated in an archaeological survey of the Ad-Deir Plateau in Petra Archaeological Park, Jordan with the help of a Heritage Fellowship from the American Schools of Oriental Research. In conjunction with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and the onsite team directed by Dr. Cynthia Finlayson of Brigham Young University, I was given the opportunity to map the Ad-Deir Plateau in near entirety by performing a pedestrian survey.IMG_2450

Throughout the month, our team recorded all the existing cultural features, including those carved directly into the stone (ritual niches, tombs, houses) and those made up of stone (buildings, dams, water channels).
We were fortunate enough to have state-of-the art technology at our disposal to aid us in this important work. For example, we were able to use such instruments as a Trimble S8 Total Station for general surveying and specialized applications, and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for survey and photography purposes, and GPS handheld units to get our bearings.

The project lasted through the month of May, during which time we stayed with locals in the nearby village of Umm Sayyhum. Much of what we recorded seemed to indicate that the ancient Nabataeans were extremely skilled in rock cutting and construction, and we garnered that they were also adept at preserving what little rainfall that the arid area received. There are numerous rock-cut cisterns, water channels, and check dams as well as some quarries, houses, other buildings, and monumental architecture such as the “Monastery,” for which the plateau is best known. The mountain top also shows signs of repeated occupation: first by the Nabataeans, then the Romans, Christians, Muslims, and, finally, by the present-day Bedouin tribe, the Bedul. (The Bedul lived in the Park itself among the monuments until the end of the 20th century, at which point they were relocated to the government-funded village of Umm Sayyhum.)

This project was conducted as a preliminary step to future excavation and subsequent preservation of the monuments present on the Ad-Deir Plateau.

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