A Brief Overview of a PNRP Dig Season

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PNRP bathhouse during excavation.

PNRP bathhouse during excavation.

By: Gabryel McBaine, 2016 Recipient of the Platt Fellowship

Thanks to ASOR’s Platt Fellowship, I was able to participate in the Petra North Ridge Project (PNRP) this summer. The Petra North Ridge Project is an excavation that began in summer of 2012. It focuses on the Nabatean domestic complexes in Petra. Most people know Petra for its monumental tomb facades and great Roman temples. Those tombs and temples tell us much about the elite who lived in Petra, but not much about the common people who would have made up the majority of the Petra population. To gain insight into the rest of Petra, Dr. Tom Parker and Dr. Megan Perry looked to the North Ridge of Petra, an area adjacent to Roman Petra. Their 2012 season had revealed several rock cut shaft tombs and houses around and parallel to the city wall. In order to help date the city wall itself and establish the breadth of the domestic area, it was decided that the 2016 season should include an area directly abutting the exterior of the city wall. This came to be area E, which is where I worked as a supervisor. It was quickly discovered after only a few days of excavation that this area was not a domestic complex to match the houses that had previously been excavated. The ashlar stones that were appearing were of a much finer construction than those in the houses. Ceramic tiles that began to appear keyed us into the realization that whatever was in this area had to have had some sort of heating system. At the end of week three of excavation full stacks of ceramic tile had been uncovered along with fragments of tubili. An oval stone feature also came to light as the side of a tub and another oval feature revealed marble facing over stone tiles. It became very clear that what we had uncovered was not a domestic complex of the working class, but most likely a late first century or early second century bathhouse.

Ayn Gharandal bathhouse.

Ayn Gharandal bathhouse.

Day off hike in Petra.

Day off hike in Petra.

PNRP bathhouse during excavation.

PNRP bathhouse during excavation.

This was the second bathhouse that I had the opportunity to help excavate. In summer of 2015, I was part of the team that excavated the bathhouse adjacent to the Diocletian era Roman military fort at Ayn’ Gharandal. Personally, I am most interested in the design and construction methods of the bathhouses. I found it very interesting to compare and contrast what I had seen at Ayn’ Gharandal with what we were finding at Petra. It was clear that the Petra bathhouse, while not in as well preserved as that at Gharandal, was constructed of finer materials and was of a more complex design. I am afraid I cannot elaborate more on the findings until the final report for the excavation has been published.

The PNRP team stayed in the house of a local family for the duration of the excavation season. Six days out of the week were spent in the field with excavation beginning around 6:30 a.m. and going until 1p.m. The afternoons would be spent working on field notebooks, top plans, pottery washing and reading, and sorting finds in the lab. After dinner in the evenings there would often be a lecture by either a staff member of PNRP, or by a guest from another Petra excavation. These lectures were a requirement for the field school portion of the project, but were also just very good information sessions for everyone involved who would like to learn more specifics about Jordanian culture and history or the field of archaeology. The seventh day was free for field trips to other parts of Jordan, exploring Petra, paperwork catch up, relaxation, etc. Often, the local Jordanian workers who we partnered with during the excavation would act as tour guides on these days, ensuring that we were able to experience Jordan from more than the tourist perspective.

Gabryel McBaine is a master’s student at North Carolina State University. She studies ancient history with an emphasis in imperial Rome under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Parker. Gabryel intends to finish her master’s and devote herself to archaeology fulltime.

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