Photos from Wadi al-Qattafi
By: Blair Heidkamp, Member Supported Fellowship Recipient
With two pick-up trucks laden with all possible supplies necessary for a month in the desert, the Eastern Badia Archaeological Project’s (EBAP) 2015 season commenced. After a falafel in Azraq, we said goodbye to civilization for a month of excavation in Wadi al-Qattafi.
The badia or “badlands” is a landscape so remarkable I imagine this is what the surface of Mars is like. The EBAP works at two different areas in the badia including Wadi al-Qattafi, where the 2015 season was located, and Wisad Pools, where I worked last summer. Wadi al-Qattafi consists of a series of basalt boulder capped mesas, which stand starkly against the beige sands. The project worked previously on excavations at another of the mesas, Maitland’s Mesa, in 2012. This year one of the directors, Dr. Gary Rollefson selected a circular building on the slopes of Mesa 7 for our excavation.
Upon arrival at Mesa 7 in Wadi al-Qattafi we set about making camp. Camp includes two Bedouin style shade tents, individual tents for sleeping, and our kitchen in the bed of one of the pick-up trucks. I participated in the Eastern Badia Archaeological Project in 2014 so I knew the drill but this lifestyle still takes a bit of adjustment. There is no showering, we eat mostly canned food, and dealing with the flies requires the patience of a Buddhist monk. Oh, and it’s hot. Regardless, I love it out there. One of the biggest benefits to me is being ‘off the grid.’ All external responsibilities fall by the wayside and all that matters is the micro community of the team and the amazing archaeology we get to do.
Seeking to understand prehistoric life in the badia has resulted in some amazing findings. Dr. Alison Betts surveyed the eastern deserts of Jordan from 1979 until 1996 and is responsible for realizing not only the great preservation of prehistoric material but also the sheer quantity of prehistoric sites in the badia. Gary Rollefson, Yorke Rowan, and Alexander Wasse are the directors of the EBAP, which began in 2009. As an understudied region of Jordan it was previously believed to be beyond the boundaries of settled life. Excavations at Wadi al-Qattafi and Wisad Pools have contradicted this theory with evidence of repeated seasonal occupation in substantial structures. Our finds include ground stone, lithic tools and points, beads, shells, and occasionally pottery. The sites have also produced some good carbon samples and arrowheads allowing us to date the structures to various subdivisions of the Neolithic. In 2013 I interned for Dr. Rowan at the W.F. Albright Institute in Jerusalem where I learned ground stone analysis, and have continued assisting in the analysis for the past two years for the EBAP.
Besides a difference in the topography of Wisad Pools and Wadi al-Qattafi one of the biggest contrasts I noticed was the number of visitors we had this year. Both sites are located far away from main highways or villages in the south of the panhandle. At Wisad Pools last year our only visitors were from the local Jordanian police outposts who also kindly would bring gifts of camel’s milk (it tastes like they smell) and “cold” water. This year we had quite a few visitors, almost a group a day, with various intentions. There is a deep well located about a dozen kilometers from where we were working and plenty of the visitors merely saw us on their way to the well and were curious about the crazy foreigners working in the desert in the summer.
This season we excavated half a residential structure and the plan is to return next year to finish the rest of the building. My participation in the project would not have been possible without the fellowship and I thank ASOR and the generous donors for facilitating the archaeological endeavors of students.
Blair Heidkamp is a recent graduate from The College of Wooster and majored in Archaeology. She has worked on archaeological field projects in both Jordan and Israel including the Galilee Prehistory Project and the Bir Madhkur Project.
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