Dating Mudaybi’s Iron II Floors

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By: Mark Green, Indiana State University, Harris Grant Recipient 

A small contingency of Karak Resources Project (KRP) members arrived in Amman ten days ago and have been busy with clean-up and excavations at the Iron 2 site named Mudaybi, and with surveying large areas of Jordan’s Central (Karak) Plateau looking for new sites and visiting old sites to update their condition.  As is happening across Jordan, we have found many sites that have been vandalized, including Mudaybi.

The combination of vandalism and time (the last excavation season at Mudaybi was in 2011) left the site in need of a lot of clean-up before new work could begin.  This was particularly important to my project.  My primary goal this season was to collect samples of buried soils lying on or beneath Mudaybi’s Iron II floors, which will be dated using Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL). This will tell us when the Iron II floors were buried under windblown loess or in the case of a plastered floor, when the underlying soil was covered by the plaster floor.  To collect these samples, I needed to have clean balks down to the floor level (in most cases bedrock) or below a plastered floor.  Through the combined effort of KRP and local labor the balks were prepared and I was able to collect my samples yesterday (Sunday, June 8). Three samples were collected for analysis.

Karak Resources Project (KRP) Amman

Karak Resources Project (KRP) Amman

Soils to be dated using OSL cannot be exposed to sunlight.  This is accomplished by driving a pipe (I used 10” sections of 2” PVC pipe) into a balk and then capping both ends to seal soil in the middle of the pipe that has not been exposed to light.  During analysis, the soil at each end of the pipe is discarded, while the soil in the middle of the pipe is used for the dating.

Green3 green4 green5The dates obtained from the samples will be very important to the KRP Project as well as Iron II studies in general.  From the Late Bronze Age through the Iron Age, many groups sought to control Transjordan’s central and northern plateaus.  By the Iron II, primary control of the region was held by the Moabites and Ammonites. While excavations and surveys have identified the geographical range of each group, it is equally important is to know when those sites were used.  Several Iron Age sites have been (or are being) excavated on Jordan’s northern plateau and both the identity of the groups that settled that region and the dates of their settlement have been established with reasonable accuracy.  In contrast, only five Iron Age sites have been excavated on the southern plateau.  The need to increase our understanding of the chronological history of the southern plateau during the Iron Age cannot be overstated and Mudaybi’s role is essential.  The site’s four-chambered gate, volute capitals, towers, and casemate walls attest to the importance of the site. Previous dating of timber beams from the site suggest a late 8th century BCE date, while the pottery appears to be as late as the end of the 7th century BCE.  It is possible that this will be the last field season at the site and everyone with the Project is excited about what we will learn about the chronological history of the site from the OSL analysis of the samples I collected.

Without the generous support from Harris Grant this analysis would not have been possible.  Many thanks to ASOR and the donors who made the grant possible!

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