GARP 2013 or two weeks of November digging in the sand!
This was my sixth time volunteering with the Great Arab Revolt Project, conceived as a ten year plan, which meant two more years to go. I missed the first two years but have tagged along with this WW1 conflict archaeology dig for the past six years.
I learned of this program at a TE Lawrence Symposium; Lawrence was instrumental in the Arab-Hasamite-involvment and his Seven Pillars left a guide to WW1 activity in the area. My contribution is in scraping, digging, toting and sieving - looking for artifacts to verify the written record. Scut work. Though this year, I did get a day learning GPS operation.
In past years, work had been along various spots of the Hejaz Railroad including Batn Al-Ghoul station and Fassu-ah Ridge, and Wuheida where both Ottoman and Arab had been based . This year we moved closer to the Saudi border at Mudawarra. At one site, we had several Jordanian military minders hanging out with us. At another, a gaggle of Bedouin kids cheering us on.
This year’s crew had ten professionals supervising sixteen volunteers, many of whom veterans of other digs; at least three professionals in real life. Six were Americans; two were former military; four were women.Some had a primary interest in archaeology and while the area’s history was the focus for others. Several missed this year’s season, fearful of the unrest in the Middle East.
Per usual, we stayed in Wadi Musa and commuted up to two hours to work, in a small bus and two pickups., which also carried equipment and supplies for the day. With the change in time- day light saving - it was often dark by the time we returned to the hotel for supper. Midterm, there was a day off for Petra-viewing and the last day was free- a staff member took the “newbies” to Wadi Rum for exploration.
My evening routine has been to check Emails at the local pizza shop and treat myself to an ice cream at the nearby Movenpick Hotel. Others go up the main street to an establishment where they can have a beer. And others work in the hotel lobby with the day’s “finds” and recording I head to my room, read a bit and sleep until six AM breakfast call.
This year, there were two discussion sessions: the first to explain and review the program; the second to review the progress and “finds” - ranging from munitions to minutia of material. The directors announced they should have enough information to complete the project next year.
Looking at what I’ve written, it sounds pretty drab! It isn’t. There is an energy and vitality underlying the work. Participants tacked assignments with enthusiasm, even “tent rings”. Everyone worked with purpose. We did visit some of our past efforts. One morning time was spent wandering about an old Ottoman Fort, used very briefly by the Brits as a hospital.
Lunch was simple: bread, hummus, cheese.“mystery meat”(an evolution of Spam?), dates, bananas and tea. Only one day was seriously hot. But early on, I had neglected regularly drinking water, got up suddenly and was dizzy - a lay down in the back of the bus for a bit helped..
I missed out on Petra this year: Had a massage and wandered about Wadi Musa instead. I talked with shop owners who bemoaned the lack of business. November isn’t the biggest tourist time but even earlier, the trade was down - they blamed it on the general unrest in the Middle East.
Project charge: $3500. Hotel was the Edom, a comfortable three star, conveniently located with buffet breakfasts and dinners.
Transportation: $1887.93 via United & British Air ff miles which included Royal Jordianian from LHR- Amman. So SF-Phoenix-LHR-Amman outbound., rather straightforward. Returning, Amman-LHR-JFK-SFO. Eight plus hours on hard chairs in terminal 7 at JFK. The positive was I found myself in Business class with Royal Jordanian and, United upgraded me to First Class from JFK to SFO. Whee!
The bummer: I arrived home to find my AOL account hacked! Oh well, there are times it has to rain on my parade!
Jo Rawlins Gilbert
Palo Alto CA 94303
Palo Alto CA 94303