Wednesday, November 10, 2010

GARP 2010 : 24 Oct-7 Nov

GARP 2010 : 24 Oct-7 Nov

Besides love of the desert, TE Lawrence and I have another thing in common - love of a soak in a hot bath. Though on this excursion, I settled for a hot shower. beating on my back.

This was my third time out with the Great Arab Revolt Project (and my fourth time in Jordan), the yearly trip to the Hejaz Railroad area where two weeks were spent digging for artifacts from the WW1 conflict between Arabs and Ottomans. The so-called TE Lawrence war. This year’s explorations occurred south of Ma’an in the Tel al-Shalm. area where I worked on tent rings, a gun emplacement and a structure of unknown usage. -- guesses ranged from a cookhouse to a brothel, the latter a not too serious suggestion. Not only were WW1 items found, but a probable Nabataen site was uncovered. My personal find was a Mauser 1916 cartridge and some bits and pieces of fabric. Much better than the first year when I was digging for mule pucky!

This year’s activity was enlivened by a day’s loan of a Royal Jordanian Air Force helicopter which was used for aerial surveys. Concurrently, the National Geographic filmed for several days - second time around for BBC filmed the first year I was with GARP. Apparently I was caught on camera, beavering away, for I was asked to sign a waiver. Check me out on the Discovery channel, if and when.

An exciting moment: a Jordanian solder came up to several of us, digging away at some sort of encampment, and asked to see my fellow excavator's book, TEL's Seven Pillars, as I recall. The solder thumbed through and then pointed out a bearded Bedouin: my grandfather, he grinned. "My grandfather" was Auda Abu Tayi, TEL's left hand during the Arab Revolt, assuming Prince Feisal was the right hand.

To add to the fun, our co-director was interviewed on Jordanian television one morning and both directors did a presentation at the local University. We stayed in Wadi Mousa, near Petra, where I went on one of our two days off. Been there before, but there are always new sights - I think it’s one of the most fantastic and awesome places on earth.

As always, the digging, scraping and sifting was time consuming and dusty. But had to be done. Possibilities had to ruled in or out. This year, more than others, a goodly share of us were attacked by a severe cold - several stayed back a day to recuperate. I conked out with a brief intestinal reaction one morning, but otherwise, was able to keep working.

Ten professionals directed sixteen volunteers,two of which were professional archaeologists and others were quite experienced, several having been with GARP since the beginning. Four Americans, a Swiss, a Belgian and a Jordanian were the foreigners in the bunch. The project is sponsored by the University of Bristol and the Jordanian Ministry of Antiquities. The last day, we a Turkish scholar joined us. As I’m sure I’ve commented before, this is a egalitarian bunch - I feel like f an extended family member.

The second day off, I went with others to Tafila- the site of the one significant Arab-Ottoman battle, an area that may be explored next year - and Karak - . which reminds me of Scotland’s Sterling Castle in that both totally dominate the landscape. And as with Petra there were busloads of tourists, completely inappropriately dressed for a Islamic country. For other than Amman and the tourist hotels, women in Jordan tend to dress conservatively - long coat and headscarf.

It was election time and I saw numerous candidates’ posters, all males, and the tented gathering places for campaign speeches in the several towns we passed driving from to the sites.

At the end of my tour, I headed home via British Airways and LHR - which meant a night in Terminal 1, the cache for all overnighters at the airport. There were about a dozen of us, including two non-too-sober Russian sailors, not terribly conversant in English who were totally confused by BA’s arrangements and decided I could be their leader.

Cost: SFO to LHR: $1000. GARP, inclusive of room and board plus airfare LHR-Amman: £2450. Well worth it and I will return!

NB: To see some fabulous photos and learn more about the dig, latch onto where Roger Ward has done a terrific job putting the tour together.