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

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.


9 08 2011

I wanted to highlight some of the work I did for the last map from my previous post. One of my goals when doing the survey work was to get enough high quality photographs and corresponding GPS points to be able to georeference the pictures in Arcmap.  Georeferencing is the process of aligning spatial data (in this GPS points)  to an image file (in this case photographs of architecture).  By doing this I can check previously drawn top plans of architecture and make adjustments or if I want I can use GIS Arcmap to draw new top plans.  This ability is especially important because there are a few squares excavated where original top plans were never drawn.  Below is a picture of the photographs from Area C georeferenced.

Fellowship Update

7 08 2011

I have been extremely busy over the last couple weeks.  I finished my survey work, scanned material in the Salt Museum, worked on getting my project report in to the DOAJ, and worked on my ACOR fellow’s lecture.  All of this is now done and its back to scanning.

During the last few weeks we realized that the amount of pottery (115 crates worth) I have to sort is too great to finish in August and so I am now staying through October.  So this last week was also taken up with changing my ticket (a huge process) and finding a place to stay.  I found a nice little one bedroom near the University of Jordan.  It has a small washing machine, a kitchenette, and wireless so I am all set.  I will now be returning on the 30th of October (and then two weeks later flying out to San Francisco for the annual archaeology meetings).

One of the main things I was working on for the fellows talk and the department report were new maps for Safut made using the GPS points I took during the survey work.  Below are two maps, the first showing the areas excavated (compared to the original site map) and the second showing the possibilities of the software with georeferenced pictures of areas A-C and the perimeter walls highlighted.

New Site Map

Old Site Map


Survey Work Complete

24 07 2011

Yesterday I completed my survey work at Safut.  With the help of my wife Angela (and kids) and James (a fellow fellow) we successfully took pictures of areas A, B, C, and L using a boom camera setup.

We took off from ACOR around 6AM and finished taking pictures around 1PM.  I had to take GPS readings on points we marked throughout the pictures areas and I didn’t finish until 3PM.  A long but successful day.  The purpose of marking points within each picture area is to georectify the pictures in ArcMap later.  This allows the pictures to be aligned accurately for photomosaic purposes, for easy comparison of drawn top plans, and to actually draw new top plans if necessary.

Over the week of my permit I was able to set up some new control points on the tell (tied in to the UTM 36N grid, which is the most accurate designation for this part of Jordan), mark out the areas excavated, map the visible walls, create a new topographic map, and take pictures of the main excavated areas.  Now to process everything.  Tomorrow I am off to the Salt Archaeological Museum to take 3D scans of the whole vessels located there.

Survey Work

18 07 2011

Friday I setup a new grid at Safut using the GPS RTK system we use at Tall Jalul.  Saturday I planned on walking the site and gathering points to make a new topographic map, but the GPS rover unit would not communicate with the base station.  I spent four hours trying to fix it.  Eventually, with the help of my friend Matt back in the States, I realized that one of the radio channels had been switched from 10 to 0.  I have no idea how this happened, no one should have any reason to change the channel.  In any case, that afternoon I mapped all of the areas that had been excavated and yesterday spent 10 hours walking all over the site for the topographic map.  I calculated that I walked over 3000m in distance and elevation change.  This afternoon I will (hopefully) finish taking points for the topo map, I just have the very steep slopes down to the wadi left to walk.  Tomorrow I will map the architectural features at the site and be almost done.

The slopes on the right are what I must traverse today.

For a nice account (with pictures!) of an afternoon working at the site see my wife’s blog.

Quick Update

13 07 2011

I am between touring around with my parents and sister, and beginning my survey work on Friday so there has been no time for blogging.  Just wanted to stop by and give a quick update.

My parents and sister flew in for 8 days and we spent the time touring all over Jordan, from Jerash and Umm Qais in the north to Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba in the south and everywhere in between.  We all had a great time, saw a lot of great sites, ate a lot of delicious food, and were all quite exhausted by the end.

Of course, the next day I had to give a presentation at the Second Annual Regional Archaeology Conference in Madaba.  The point of the conference is for all the different digs that are in the field during the summer to get together and share what they have been working on.  Even though I didn’t dig at Jalul this season, everyone from the team left Jordan about a month ago, so gave an overview on phase 1 of excavations at Jalul (the first 10 seasons) with a focus on what was excavated this season.  Other digs that gave talks included:  Wadi Zarqa Ma’in, Tall Madaba, Tall al ‘Umayri, Tall Hisban, Wadi Thamad Project, and Dhiban.

This morning I went to the Department of Antiquities and picked up my project permit.  It was very exciting to have in my hands.  I was amused to note that I am apparently Dr. Owen Chesnut on the permit, hopefully in a year en shallah.  Friday I begin working by setting up a new benchmark and control points on the summit of Tall Safut and then Saturday and Sunday I am walking the site with the GPS to create a new topographic map and outlining any walls.

Dissertation Weekly #10

18 06 2011

The past two weeks have been void of writing.  The time has been spent scanning and drawing pottery full time.  I’m afraid the remainder of my time here might take that form.  However there are still plenty of sentences to pick from, so here we go.

The recording system used by the Tell Safut Project differed from its first five seasons to its last five seasons.

During its first five seasons a simple recording form was used, which was a variation of the forms created for the Tell Heshbon excavations carried out by Andrews University in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  This form included basic information such as “progress of excavation” and “locus description” allowing for narrative recording.  There was also a second sheet for “associated pottery.” During the second five seasons the Tell Safut Project used a version of the Madaba Plains Project recording notebook designed by Larry Herr.  Unlike the old forms, these new forms contained many detailed prompts for filling out data.  Unfortunately if the person filling out the information isn’t properly trained or properly supervised errors occur and details are left out.  These things happened repeatedly in the excavation notebooks.