Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Day 2 - Ma'an

Ma’an station, a major station on the HIJAZ RAILWAY, is at the centre of a complex of hilltop trenches extending outwards from the station designed to protect it and a garrison of up to 6000 Turkish troops in 1916 – 1918. The whole party went to the site for the first time today. The various teams went off to develop their work in the following areas: the metal detectorists spent the morning investigating a section of the crenulated trench to the north of the Hill of the Birds and discovered one particularly heavy concentration of expended cartridge cases and incoming rounds possibly indicating the location of a single firing site during the battle. The surveyors roved across the wide expanse of the lower levels of the site and located the foundations a number of new buildings and other feature. These were further investigated in the afternoon by the detectorists. One digging team excavated a section of front line firing trench and communication trench serving it. A second digging team excavated what was probably a hastily constructed support trench for the front line firing trench at a slightly higher level. Unlike in the front line the frontline firing trench, no expended munitions were found in the support trench, which implies it postdates the battle in April 1918. Two other digging teams working on the southern redoubt, one excavated a short section of frontline firing trench and its’ serving communications trench, and the other excavated a possible machine gun placement.

We were also visited by the Inspector of Antiquities for Ma’an Hani Falahat, who took one of the directors to se be Birket Ma’an, where there is a gigantic Ottoman cistern fed by a spring which supplied water to the whole of Ma’an including Ma’nn station and the Turkish garrison during the first world war. This enlarges the defended landscape of which we are aware and are attempting to define.

The plan is that tomorrow the team heads out into the desert proper to Wadi Rutm, to continue investigation of a Hijaz Railway station and Turkish military encampments. We also hope to publish edited extracts of the Site Diary beginning tomorrow.

We are most grateful to the Candles Hotel Petra for their kind assistance with access to Internet facilities for the uploading of this blog.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Day 1 - orientation.

The remaining party arrived at Amman safely at around 10.30 pm local time on Monday evening. Unfortunately to a problem with the official paperwork two had to stay in Amman overnight waiting for clearance for flight cases of equipment, including the metal detectors. This resulted in the rest checking into the hotel at 4.00am local.

Undaunted the remainder had a late breakfast and, together with the advance party, met to discuss the project in broad terms and to allocate teams for different areas of the work and become aware of the health and safety issues associated with a project of this type in a Middle Eastern country.

We then boarded our transport and headed up to the first principal dig site at Ma’an, a journey of some 50 minutes from Petra.

Once there the new recruits and those visiting for the second time walked the various points of interest over the range of the site. During this Neil Faulkner, David Thorpe and others outlined the historical context of the features, their archaeological significance and the extent to which they had already been investigated plus the general plans for the development of the work.

Many thanks to the College of Archaeology at Al-Hussein Bin Talal University for their help in providing an internet connection to upload this blog.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Pre-dig info

Advance party has been there for a couple of days now. Everything sounds good, although there are apparently no internet facilities in the hotel.

The good news is the Jordanian Department Of Antiquities have promised us access via the university at Petra, which means this blog looks like it will actually happen and be updated live every day from tomorrow onwards. Exciting stuff!


A forward party comprising of Neil Faulkner, David Thorpe, David and Angie Hibbitt flew to Jordan on Friday 26 October 2007, arriving at Wadi Musa in the early hours of Saturday morning. Their remit was to prepare for the remainder of the party, who would join us in three days time.

This year the Project is fortunate in having the assistance of two lecturers from the Al-Hussein Bin Talal University (Zeyad Al-Salameen and Mansour Shqiarat) as well as Jeyad Kafafi, a Curator at the Jordan Museum. All three will be contributing their expertise and knowledge and will be working on site as part of the team. The University has also kindly agreed to loan the Project a Total Station which will be huge asset to the surveying team.

The two Dave’s spent some time on Monday acquainting themselves with this equipment while Neil, Zeyad and Angie went to Ma’an to meet with Mansour and Hani Falahat, who is the Inspector of Antiquities for the Ma’an region. Hani worked closely with us last year and we are pleased to resume our working relationship with him.

A site visit followed at the Hajj Fort of Fassu-oh, which is approximately 60km south of Ma’an. The fort is one of a series of Ottoman installations and protected the watering place which was later used to supply water to the Aqabat-Hejaz railway station. We spent some time carefully exploring the fort which is largely intact but has been subjected to some digging by treasure hunters. The fort is isolated, lying at the bottom of a Wadi, surrounded by hills. There are two water reservoirs adjacent, typical of the type found elsewhere in Southern Jordan. The site is ripe for further investigation.

A check of the over looking hills revealed two possible observation posts and two trenches.

We also visited the site of the Aqabat-Hejaz Station, which is roughly 2km east of Fassu-oh. There some standing building remains here, as a well as a water reservoir which may have had a building on top of it. There also appeared to be a later addition of a fortified wall around these station buildings.

These are both exciting new sites that add to our growing knowledge and understanding of the activities of those involved in the Great Arab Revolt in this area.