Universität Bonn

Islamic Archaeology Research Unit of the University of Bonn

Tall Hisban, Excavation Season 2018, Week Three (8–12 July 2018)

How hard it is to close a season - The end of an excavation season rarely brings any kind of closure, as it usually raises many more questions than it answers. According to an archaeologist’s form of “Murphy’s Law”, it is inevitable that the best finds will be uncovered on the last day of excavation, or some stratigraphic complexity will emerge that will force you to rethink interpretations of room space or architectural phasing. The 2018 season was no different. The Mamluk-era village of Hisban was more diverse and complicated than we had realized. These farmhouses had indoor plumbing, clay preparation might have been a household industry, and the North House was under fire … by someone.

Highlights of the week – In the Field O farmhouses: a cannon ball in the doorway of the North House and arrows inside the house, musket balls in the adjacent building, covered drains under the floors of two houses, plastered basins with drains, evidence of industrial activity, local imitations of proto-majolica wares, fine glassware, and a “whole lotta’ cooking goin’ on”! The Field M vaulted structure sits above a large cistern, and a large Mamluk-era midden (trash dump) is located at the entrance. Beautiful Byzantine stratigraphy in Field B, with walls rebuilt in the Mamluk period for a structure of still unknown function. In spite of enormous efforts, the foundation trench was not reached in the South House, which seems to have an older history of construction than that of the adjacent structures.

For details, look for our forthcoming preliminary report in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan or come to our group lecture at the Kolleg in two weeks! (Bob Bates of Andrews University and I will also present the results at the Annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in November in Denver.)
Evening lectures and special events – Warren Schultz joined us this week, as he did in 2016, to participate in the excavation and to “read” what coins we recovered this season. He gave the Tuesday evening lecture on Islamic numismatics and lessons learned about the economy of Mamluk Jordan from the (archaeological) numismatic record.

Wednesday (July 11) we celebrated in fine style 50 years of American (and now joint American-German) excavations at Tall Hisban. The morning was devoted to an academic conference, at which Sten LaBianca and I presented, and where some 100 people from the Jordanian and international archaeological communities and local universities were in attendance. Many veterans of the original Heshbon Expedition of the 1960s and 1970s were there!

The evening celebration was held in the village under an enormous tent, with an A-list of speakers and a bazaar with local handicrafts. H.E. Prince Raad, who participated in the Heshbon Expedition years ago, opened the program with a speech. The Norwegian Ambassador attended and toured the site, and a German press corps was sent to cover the event.

On Thursday a group of us met with the President of German-Jordanian University in Madaba, Dr. Manar Fayyad, who is a graduate of the University of Bonn. (The German Ambassador in Amman is, as well, we should note.) Uni-Bonn has close ties to Jordan.
Our visitors this week – In addition to Warren Schultz, Amenah Abdulkarim – a recent doctoral student of Yossi Rapoport and now Assistant Professor of History at Kuwait University – joined us for a couple of days, on her return from the School of Mamluk Studies Conference in Ghent. We were very happy to have both of them with us this week.

The 50th celebrations also brought many visitors to the site this week, including veterans of the Heshbon Expedition, staff and fellows of ACOR (the American Center of Oriental Research), and members of excavation projects working on the Madaba Plains.
Reminiscing about Hisban, a personal note – On closing this final blog of the 2018 season, I quietly celebrate my own archaeological milestone: 20 years working at Tall Hisban. I came to the project in 1998 as a newly minted PhD from the University of Toronto. Through various ASOR connections, I was invited to join the excavation as the project ceramicist, shifting my research from Egypt to Jordan. That year we uncovered the storeroom of the Mamluk garrison, which would become a turning point in the history of the American excavations there. From then on the Mamluk period would be a focus of scholarly investigation, and today Tall Hisban is a point of reference for Mamlukists interested in rural society. This very special site has been a constant companion throughout my career. Through the field school, I have maintained contact with students I taught over the last 20 years, many of whom joined us in the field for this anniversary season.

For me, outside of the exciting new data from the farmhouses, this season will be particularly memorable for two reasons. The first was a surprise fête the Kolleg team gave me the final day of the excavation, replete with fireworks atop cakes and gifts of beautiful locally handicrafts: an act of kindness from the best students and colleagues one could hope for. The second was the end-of-season photo with my students, past and present, who hail from Uni-Bonn, Missouri State, and Oklahoma State. I will always cherish that photo. These are all reminders of why I went into education and why I became an archaeologist. Ours are lives intertwined at a little castle site in Jordan.

Report submitted 6 July 2018,

Bethany J. Walker, Director of Excavations/Co-Director ASK

Sherihan Inalo and her spolia.jpg
© Sherihan Inalo and her spolia
Warren Schultz moving rock.jpg
© Warren Schultz moving rock
Field M team at the 50th event (Charles Rhodes, Aren LaBianca, Kjelshus Collins, and Ryan Thomas).jpg
© Field M team at the 50th event (Charles Rhodes, Aren LaBianca, Kjelshus Collins, and Ryan Thomas)
sunrise and Jerusalem in the distance.jpg
© sunrise and Jerusalem in the distance
The members of the ASK team.jpg
© The members of the ASK team
Prince Raad's speech.jpg
© Prince Raad's speech
Prof. Walker's students - past and present.jpg
© Prof. Walker's students - past and present
dueling poles.jpg
© dueling poles
Amenah Abdulkarim visits us (Abby Senn (MSU), Prof. Walker, Amenah Abdulkarim, Anastasia Thamnopoulou, Hend El Sayed and Kaori Otsuya).jpg
© Amenah Abdulkarim visits us (Abby Senn (MSU), Prof. Walker, Amenah Abdulkarim, Anastasia Thamnopoulou, Hend El Sayed and Kaori Otsuya)
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