Lebanon Day 1 (UPDATED)

29 05 2011

I would have loved to post daily from Lebanon, but the internet was incredibly spotty and we were way to busy.  So I am doing a retro blog for each day.  Hopefully I will pump them out this week, but life is always hectic.

So, we arrived in Beirut around 1130 after an hour flight from Amman.

We got our rental car and drove north through Beirut to Zouk Mikael.  Everyone told us driving in Beirut was bad, but we thought how much worse than Jordan could it be?  Well it is worse.  Its like taking the bad driving habits of Jordan and adding heavier traffic and scooters.  In any case, we made it through Beirut fine, it was either my sense of direction or dumb luck because it was impossible to follow the directions I had printed or the poor maps we had with us.  Also that was the only time we ever navigated Beirut successfully.  Unfortunately it was impossible to find our guesthouse.  The directions weren’t great, but the main issue was that the place had no sign!  We asked around, with most people speaking to us in French (I should have boned up on my French, wasn’t thinking), when a nice restaurant manager called the guesthouse for us and we got it all sorted out.

After checking out our digs we tried to go to the Jeitta Grotto, which unfortunately was closed for cleaning for the day.  So we went to Nahr al-Khalb (Dog River).  It is named this because in antiquity a statue of a wolf was positioned as a sentry overlooking the Mediterranean.  All major foreign powers who invaded these lands had to pass this river by way of a narrow road.

So many of them left inscriptions along the cliff face.

Update: I should also note that in the above picture it is no surprise that Esarhaddon on his return from defeating the Egpytians in 671 BCE decided to erect an inscription next to one from Ramesses II.  A little extra insult to the Egyptians perhaps?

After this little excursion we got dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant (Angela got lasagna and I got shwarma pizza, we both got mint lemonade) and retired for the evening.

The next day we went north to Byblos, Batroun, Tripoli, and a couple of other sites (yes we packed in a lot).

Dissertation Weekly #7

28 05 2011

We just returned from Lebanon and are trying to get back into our daily routine.  Soon I hope to have a blog post or two on the trip, but for now its time for the weekly dissertation sentence.  Before leaving for Jordan I finished my Late Bronze chapter, so a sentence from it seems appropriate.

Locus 18 is described as a “white hard packed surface” (Peterson 1982: 5).

Despite its simple nature this sentence is of monumental importance.  Locus 18 is a floor with material on top of it dating to the Late Bronze Age II.  This floor is located in B5 and I was able to determine 3 walls that are associated with it, along with objects associated with ritual (including a bronze deity figurine, ceramic chalice, and burnt grain).

I have my first architectural phase!  So, after writing my Middle Bronze and Late Bronze chapters (and currently working on my Iron Age I) chapter I can give a brief summary of the beginning phases at Safut.

  • MBIIC – Phase 1 only pottery
  • LBIIB – Phase 2 sanctuary room in B5
  • 13th-12th century BCE – Phase 3 transitional pottery on floor level in B4
  • Iron Age I – Phase 4 floor level in B6 with associated whole pottery forms

The Cave of Sherds and Warehouse of Pottery (UPDATED)

19 05 2011

I went back to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan’s warehouse today, to write up a complete inventory of all the Safut material that I am requesting be moved to ACOR.  This inventory is the last step before the moving process can begin.  I had to catalog and take pictures of all whole vessels (or mostly whole) and tally the number of crates for each field season.  On my original visit a department worker had told me there were 100 crates.  When I went down to look I estimated 60-70 crates…apparently I missed a section because there are actually 115 crates of pottery.  These crates cover 9 seasons as I have all of the 2001 material at Andrews.  In one of the rooms in the warehouse there were 5 shelves of Safut pottery totaling 32 vessels that I had to photograph.  This part was exciting because there were some really nice forms.  A bit of a daunting task in front of me, but one that will make my dissertation that much better.  I leave you with a few pictures of the pottery.

UPDATE:  My Dad requested I say a bit about each of the vessels.  So here we go.

The above form is  a bowl with ledge handles.  Ledge handles are prevalent in the Early Bronze Age and then make a comeback in the late Iron Age.  This bowl is from the Iron Age IIC (7th-6th centuries BCE) and was found in a room of what I am tentatively calling a regional administrative complex.

This bowl is very high quality.  It has a nice red slip and wheel burnish and black painted stripes.  It is not exactly Ammonite ware (which tends to also have white paint) but it is close.  A form that is typical of the late Iron Age in this area.  It was found in a room in the casemate wall around the ancient city.

This form is called a pilgrim flask.  It is basically a large jug, but one specifically used for carry liquids (usually water).  It was constructed in a way that made it easy to attached to something (person, donkey, etc) via a rope.  It also dates late in the Iron Age.

This last vessel is a late Iron Age cooking pot. It was excavated in 1983, but there was no indication as to where it was from on the site.

I’m sure you have noticed a trend here.  All of these vessels date to the late Iron Age.  This period is the most substantial at Safut where it was likely an Ammonite administrative center for the Baq’ah Valley, essentially the northern equivalent to Tall al Umayri to the south.  There are a few, whole or mostly whole vessels from the Late Bronze II and the Iron Age I but I have not found them yet.

Dissertation Weekly #6 (Bonus)

13 05 2011

Since there was no dissertation weekly last week, I am doing two this week and as an added bonus this entry will consist of three sentences.  My last post was on the details of the pottery from the Middle Bronze Age. I thought I should quote from my methodology chapter and explain to those who don’t already know why pottery is so important.

All of these reports use what is typically called in archaeology the “comparative” approach.  The pottery excavated from the site will be compared with that from other sites with known chronologies.  After a date can be assigned to the sherds, the loci they were found in can all be assigned to a particular phase, and from these phases the overall stratigraphy of the site can be determined (Dever 1978; Herr and Christopherson 1998).

Dissertation Weekly #5

11 05 2011

Apparently I missed the weekly installation last week, sometimes time just flies by.  In any case, dissertation weekly is back!  Hopefully there will be a second one later in the week, to make up for last week.  I wanted to focus on pottery this week.

Eleven of the sherds (46%) can be classified as some version of Chocolate-on-White ware (CW) and another six sherds have paint on them but do not fit the classification requirements for CW (Fischer 1999).

This sentence is part of the discussion on the Middle Bronze pottery found at Safut.  Based on parallels I was able to determine that the Middle Bronze occupation at the site should date to the MBIIC period or around 1550 BCE.  In this time period the site has more similarities with sites to the north along the Jordan Valley such as Tall Abu al-Kharaz,  Tall Deir Allah, and Jericho, than with sites to the south such as Tall al-Umayri, Sahab, Madaba, etc.  The point of the sentence quoted was to show that 71% of MB diagnostic sherds recovered from Safut are fine ware (as opposed to storage jars, cooking pots, etc…).  Unfortunately, no architectural remains from this period have been found (although the acropolis perimeter wall might date to this time), but the quality of the pottery hints at what kind of remains are waiting to be found.

The Cave of Sherds

3 05 2011

Yesterday I ran into one of my friends who was making a trip over the Department of Antiquities. I decided to go along on the off chance that my letters of permission would be ready. When I got there Tammam, the man in charge of museums, was nowhere to be found and I discovered he had been in the States at meetings for a week and a half. While waiting for my friend Matt I went to say I to Jihad. Jihad is in charge of project permits, amongst other things. He decided to see if he could help me out and after waiting a couple of hours I had my letters! Thanks to Jihad, now I would be able to access the DAJ warehouse and the Salt Museum to look at Safut material.

So this morning Matt and I headed over to the department warehouse. He had to measure some EB bones and I was going to get an idea of what Safut material was available. We met with Adnan, the head of the warehouse, and he took us to look for material in the main warehouse while someone else was looking for Safut pottery in the cave. Yes, as I would late discover, they keep crates and crates of material in an extremely large cave next to the warehouse. Adnan helped me find two crates of Safut objects, as well as a few shelves with whole (or mostly whole) vessels. I was hoping to find whole vessels because I have very few so far and it will be nice to have some whole representative forms from the different periods at Safut.

When a worker came back from the cave, he and Adnan began laughing…there were approximately 100 crates of Safut material. So I accompanied the worker down into the cave and assessed what was there.   We entered and went back several hundred meters through various large “rooms” until getting to the area where the Safut material was held.  There were many crates (maybe not 100) labeled in Arabic and arranged by year.  So I am hoping to get permission to bring them back to ACOR and sort through all of them.

I now have a bit more work in front of me than I had previously anticipated. That is the bad news, the good news is that I should be able to find diagnostic sherds from some important loci. These loci are important because they can tell me the date for a wall, floor, or other installation. There are several of these loci that I have no pottery for, and now I know where they have been hiding: in a cave.