Professor Wimmer

24 05 2013

Don Wimmer passed away on Monday, May 23rd. He was 80 years old, former professor at Seton Hall University and director of excavations at Tall Safut.

Don began excavating at Tall Safut in 1982 and I first met him 25 years later in the summer of 2007. He had been in touch with my Ph.D. adviser Randall Younker during the fall of 2006 in an effort to find a doctoral student to wade through material he had excavated over the course of 10 seasons at the site. I jumped at the opportunity to work on an actual site and on actual pottery that I could hold in my hand. That summer in 2007, I spent a week at Don’s house going through the Safut material and loading it up in a Uhaul to take back to the archaeology lab at Andrews University. During that week, there were bad storms and we had to deal with a blackout that lasted several days. Some of my favorite memories of Don involved illuminating the broken pieces of a storage jar by candlelight in the basement and then later enjoying a glass of wine (or two) on his back deck as the night slowly enveloped us.Truck Full of Safut

We stayed in touch via email and phone over the following year and met in Jordan the next summer. I was digging at Tall Jalul, and Don came over to show me Safut and introduce me to some people at the Salt Museum and in the Department of the Antiquities of Jordan. One day I got a 4-hour tour of Safut and its environs from Don. It was amazing to see his deep connection with every part of the site and to gain so many insights into what had taken place before. Another favorite moment came when we drove up above the site to the village of Suweileh. There is an abandoned parking garage with a perfect view down on the site. Unfortunately, the cement stairs leading to the upper levels of the structure had been broken off. This fact did not deter me and I decided to try to jump out onto the rebar protruding from the stairs and climb up. I managed to jump across the open drop to the rebar, but found myself somewhat stuck. I turned around to see Don quite amused at my plight, I managed to snap a picture (see below) before pulling myself up. We shared a good laugh about it later when I was safely back down, and Don was right: the view of Safut was spectacular.

Professor Wimmer

Professor Wimmer

The Stairs

The Stairs

A View of Safut

A View of Safut

It should be noted that Don saved the site of Tall Safut.  If he had not directed the salvage excavation in 1982, the highway running from Amman to Jerash would have been expanded directly through the site.  Instead, an extremely important site in Jordan has been excavated and preserved for future generations of archaeologists to explore.  To close, I thought I would post part of a document he was sending me bit by bit entitled “The Tell Safut Story.”  Unfortunately he never finished it, but here is the opening section recounting how Don began work at Safut:

“The Department (of Antiquities) is looking for people to salvage sites that are going to be destroyed either by highway development or building construction projects, that is, unless archaeological significance can be demonstrated in each case.”… I never thought of undertaking such a thing, but by 2 am we decided to retire and rise at 6 am to survey a site before leaving to the airport and returning to the States.

 We did that. The site was Tell Safut.  I said I didn’t know (if I could/would take it on). I left the message: “I’d do what I could.”  I took the idea to Dr. Sauer, former director of ACOR, now newly appointed professor of archeology at the University of Pennsylvania.

He figured I’d need about $13,000 and the assistance of the D of A. Impossible, I said. But I went away thinking about how this might be possible.   By February, I think, I agreed to take it on.  By August, I had a crew of volunteers on site, at the end of which Tom Parker, sitting across the table from me working on his notes, told me I was supposed to write a report before I left the country. A What? Made sense.

Wimmer at Safut in 1987

Professor Wimmer at Safut in 2001

I will miss you, Don. Rest in Peace.





Dissertation Weekly #13

27 07 2012

We are moving forward in time again this week…on to the Iron Age I!

These storage jars are located in the southwest corner of the square between the perimeter wall and a low mudbrick “wall” running in an arch from the corner towards the middle of the square.

This quote is referring to several collared rim storage jars found in B6.  These remains account for the only pure Iron I level at the site.  This general setup, with storage jars located against the main perimeter wall, is paralleled at sites such as Tall al-Umayri and Shiloh.  A fairly unique beer strainer was found in the same locus as the storage jars.  There are not many published Iron I sites in Jordan, so hopefully this chapter will help expand the picture for the 12th century BCE.

Top third of an Iron I storage jar

Early beer strainer from B6

 





Dissertation Weekly #12

19 07 2012

For this installment I am moving on to my Late Bronze chapter, which I rewrote after going through all of the pottery that I scanned while in Jordan.  I have already discussed a possible floor level in B4 and the sanctuary in B5, which are the two main Late Bronze phases on the site.  Today I want to write briefly about pottery.  A complete undecorated chalice was found in association with the metal figurine in B5, as I mentioned in a dissertation weekly from last summer.  Here is the drawing of the chalice:

Chalice from the LB sanctuary in B5

The brief mention of the chalice in B5 is an introduction into the sentence for this week:

There are two more unique forms represented, two sherds from a painted chalice and a Cypriote White Slip II milk bowl sherd.

These sherds come from D2, which is a square excavated on the southern perimeter of the tell in an attempt to identify a supposed glacis.  Despite the lack of a glacis much high quality fineware from the Middle Bronze Age and the Late Bronze Age were found here (perhaps indicating important remains from these periods further upslope below the Iron II remains).  This second chalice is much higher quality than the one in the LBII sanctuary, with bichrome paint and light slip.  It has direct parallels in the Late Bronze burial caves found by Dr. Pat McGovern as part of the Baq‘ah Valley Project.  The other interesting find from this square is the piece of a Cypriot milk bowl, evidence of the importance of Safut in the local trade network.  The form is clearly an import and not a locally made imitation and belongs to the White Slip II group that dates in Cyprus from the Late Cypriote IB2-IIA1 (LBIC-LBIIB in Jordan, 14-13th centuries BCE).

Chalice sherd from D2

Color image of the chalice from a 3D scan

Cypriote Milk Bowl from D2





The Job Search

16 07 2012

The time of year to apply for jobs is around the corner.  As classes are starting in two months, universities will begin the process of hiring for the following school year.  Last year I found a number of jobs that didn’t require a PhD in hand, but it was strongly implied that they were desired.

I would guess I applied for around 20 jobs, with two or three fitting my optimal qualifications.  It is hard to find a job in Near Eastern Archaeology and so I have had to cast a wide net, including positions in Old Testament and Anthropology as those have both been focuses of my studies.

This year I am much closer to being finished with my dissertation and hopefully will have a better chance of landing a job for the following year, here’s hoping.  Until then its time to find a regular job…and finish the dissertation, of course.

 





Dissertation Weekly #11

9 07 2012

Over the last couple months I have been writing my dissertation again.  After coming back from Jordan I had a significant amount of data processing to do, mainly focused on drawing pottery.  I found so much more Bronze Age pottery in Jordan that I had to rewrite part of my Middle Bronze chapter and most of my Late Bronze chapter.  I have finished those two chapters and completed my Iron Age I chapter as well, so the next few dissertation weeklies will be taken from them.  I am currently writing my Iron II chapter, which I have divided by area because they are so spread out across the site and different material is found in each of them.  So without further ado lets get back into it:

It is likely that this phase dates to the Middle Bronze Age: The latest sherds found in the fill outside the wall date to this period; and, even though only a couple such sherds exist, the construction of this wall is of high enough quality to tip the scale in this direction instead of to the Late Bronze Age II.

Here I am referring to the first phase of the acropolis perimeter wall.  I have added a section in my Middle Bronze chapter describing the wall in detail and its different building phases.  The city was contained within this wall for the Middle Bronze Age (this is hypothesized as no other MB architectural remains have been discovered), Late Bronze Age, and Iron Age I before expanding greatly in the Iron Age IIB (although the wall continued to be in use during the Late Iron Age as well).

The acropolis wall is indicated by the innermost black line (with tower) at the southern end of the site.

 

I have to do more research on parallels for this type of city wall and will write more about it in my historical/archaeological conclusions chapter, but for now my best guess is MB.  The wall has not been excavated to its lowest courses on the interior, where other architecture would run up against it, and so fills outside the wall and its construction technique are all that there is to go on.

A view of the wall through squares B2 and B1, looking towards the west.

 





A Return to Writing

9 07 2012

I write on this blog much to infrequently,  for a number of different reasons, but my wife has encouraged me to write more often.  Just reading the insightful, creative posts on her own blog makes me want to write.  Also, she pointed me to the words on a friends blog “regular writing, occasional brilliance” which is something I will try to commit myself to.  As I was saying at the beginning, there are numerous reasons for not blogging including a lack of time, a lack of creativity, lack of access to resources, etc… However, I started this blog with the purpose of lending insight into the process of writing an archaeology dissertation, and since I have been writing again for the last several months I thought it was time to restart my dissertation weekly series.  I figure that this will give me something to write every week and will hopefully lead to other posts.





Maeir on the Qeiyafa Finds

11 05 2012

Aren Maeir (director of excavations at Tell es-Safi, biblical Gath) has written a post on the cultic finds from Kh. Qeiyafa.  Yossi Garfinkel has written a brief response to Aren on his interpretation of the model shrines as biblical term aron elohim (in this case “ark of the gods“).  I am traveling today so I can’t comment more, but I think Aren’s comments are exactly right.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 656 other followers