Nov 3-18 2012: Fifth year with GARP
I looked at past trip notes for the Great Arab Revolt Project to see what I could add to my experiences for this two week working holiday. Only that I continue to enjoy the sense of purpose and the comradeship that joins us together. Though my work still remains mostly scut labor - sieving and scraping: basic archaeology. Necessary though not romantic.
This began after I heard a presentation by one of the directors and, without any archaeological experience, applied to join this ten year project - there are three yet to go and I hope to hang on to the bitter end.
This year, there were ten staff and eighteen volunteer, six of them, “newbies”. However, several volunteers are professionals on a busman’s holiday and others were skilled artisans. As always, there were several military men: one a twenty year Marine Corps veteran and another a South African Special Forces retiree. So, the South African, a Swiss, a Scot, a Jordanian. two Aussies, six Americans, - the rest English. Sponsored by the University of Bristol and the Jordanian Ministries of Antiquities, among others, GARP is an investigation of WW 1 activity in the Middle East. The Lawrence of Arabia dig, as it were.
We stayed back at the Edom Hotel, the place of my first trip to Jordan, some years before GARP. A comfortable three-star whose internet was unworkable, leaving me with regular visits to the pizza parlor cum internet on the main street. Enroute to the Movenpick Hotel, place of serious ce cream.
So on 7:30AM mornings, our group took off in bus and several 4x4s through the dawn, usually through Ma’an - until that got a bit rough with protests over gasoline increases -to the assignments d’jour. Often, several hours commute. Depending on meeting schedules, we would head back latest 4PM. Most of us were on work assignment; a few were investigating further projects, others stayed back to process the prior day’s finds. It was always evolving, always subject to change. Earlier days’ discoveries often determined the next step.
Sites this year were Wadi Rutm Fort, Tooth Hill Camp, Siddon’s Fort (named for the RFC pilot who mapped the area), Madawarra (near the Saudi border) with a quick look back at Wuheida. I had been across the border earlier this year, exploring the Saudi side of the old Hejaz RR, which had stretched about the then unfettered Arabian countryside on the road to Mecca. Almost all sites are related to stations along the Hejez RR.
In addition to the usual digging and sieving, mental detecting and recording, there was field reconnaissance on several sites with some success. I did spent a day being a rather inept GPS recorder for a metal detectorist - my illegible handwriting didn’t help; I never did translate one item. Bad!
The wonderful moments were when several staff interviewed a local Mudawarra Sheik whose grandfather had fought in the Revolt. I would have given my eye teeth to have heard this conversation. The same man became trusting enough of our guys to guide them around. Even better, he took control of the batch of kids hanging around, all to eager to “assist” us.
We did well this year with bits and pieces indicating WW 1 usage: shrapnel, cartridges, tunnels, etc. Staff was pleased to find work at Mudawarra was feasible; I suspect we will be there again. As much as possible, there is an effort to validate places and finds with existing information including Lawrence’s tome, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
The two days off saw me back at Petra - magnificent as always - and to Shobat - an unrestored crusader castle where three of us scrambled about, sans any safety measures. Next year, I hope to arrive early and go north of Amman to Umm Qais with both Roman and Ottoman era ruins plus views of the Golan Heights.
I started out this trip, feeling a bit grim. Rain and chilly weather in CA kicked up the arthritis in my back at the beginning. Toting goopers full of dirt exacerbated that so I moved to sitting and sieving. Eventually was able to move onto scraping and digging. Walking was unaffected. But I did feel badly I was on not top form. And by the time I arrived home, there was the yearly Fall cold, which saw me across from Amman to Chicago to SFO in a tight, crowded thirteen-plus hour flight. A roomier trip onto SFO. And I did avoid overnight in Terminal 3, my parking place of past years.
Major Costs: Airfare via Orbitz: $1226.70. GARP (inclusive of Room/Board): $3125. Pet Care: $689.50.