Pottery and the Petra Garden and Pool Complex (PGPC) Excavation

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By: Sarah Wenner, 2013 Heritage Fellowship Recipient 

This summer was one of the busiest and most exciting I have ever had, thanks in large part to Heritage Fellowship I received through ASOR, and one which showed me the diversity of sites in the Wadi Musa area.

My first project was an excavation of the Petra Garden and Pool Complex (PGPC), directly east of the Great Temple in Petra. I had worked extensively with pottery from Nabataea over the past year with my advisor. The Nabataean Painted Fineware had specifically intrigued me as it can be dated within decades as opposed to centuries. I was in the process of preparing a paper on the topic when I first entered the field. Needless to say, the opportunity to handle the ceramics as they emerged from their context provided a much more complete understanding of its role in the life of Nabataeans.

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Drawing Petra finds. Photo by Leigh-Ann Bedal

My previous experience excavating in the United States was unlike anything I experienced at Petra. In trench 26, a couple meters of fill had to be removed in order to determine the structure underneath.
We knew that although the trench was outside of the pool itself it was still tied to the complex, possibly a cistern catching water from the cliff-top reservoir. Since most of the uppermost layers in the trench were runoff from a domestic complex on the cliff, we moved quickly and with tools capable of removing larger stones. By mid-June the top of the southern monumental wall peaked through and a purposefully carved circular feature was further exposed. The latter’s purpose, the original reason for excavating the trench, is still undetermined and calls for further work. Perhaps more fineware sherds will be discovered next season to provide a more complete date.

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Excavating trench 26 with shovels and picks. Photo by Jennifer Ramsey

 

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Taking elevations. Photo by Leigh-Ann Bedal

When I arrived at the Udhruh Archaeological Project’s house in Wadi Musa, pottery bags were waiting for me with a handful of fineware sherds. Fineware finds were much rarer at Udhruh than at Petra, and I eagerly looked for them when I accompanied the team into the field. Although we found no more than a handful, the sherds dated not only the field system but also some smaller occupation sites to the Nabataean and Roman periods, calling for further study next season!

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Surveying at the Udhruh fort. Photo by Sarah Wenner

Ultimately my favorite night was not one involving pottery but was a surprise 21st birthday party for a PGPC teammate at the Monastery in Petra, discretely orchestrated by the PGPC team and local workers. The hot climb up, the meal, the view, and the slow stroll back to the dig house under the stars was a singularly unique cultural experience possible in part because of the generosity of ASOR and the Heritage Fellowship.

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Dinner in the cave across from the Monastery. Photo by Sarah Wenner

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Birthday celebration organized by the Bedul. Photo by Sarah Wenner

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