Universität Bonn

Islamic Archaeology Research Unit of the University of Bonn

Tall Hisban, Excavation Season 2018, Week Two (30 June-5 July 2018)

They are more than just houses - This season is definitely an architectural one. After completing the physically challenging work of removing collapsed barrel vaults and walls (fallen during earthquakes), we are now entering rooms that have not been visible for some five centuries. New structures are emerging from the dust, and we are encountering a bewildering complexity of plastered walls (some as high as ten courses), plastered and earth floors, pits, and trenches.

Our team this year is one of the best trained and accomplished we have ever had. With so many veterans of the project with us this season, we are well prepared to address the stratigraphic challenges presented by the site. We are also learning much more about local building techniques and organization of work, as well as that of other industries (such as ceramic production), in this late medieval rural community.

Highlights of the week – The cluster of as many as four farmhouses in Field O is revealing a very complicated history of family growth, spatial reorganization, and architectural modification over a two-century period. Courtyard space at one point became living space, and living space may have been converted to stabling. There are cooking facilities everywhere. The ruins of ancient buildings were incorporated into new ones in the 13th and 14th centuries. A clear 13th-century ceramic horizon is now emerging, and ceramic imports from the Byzantine Empire (in its latest years), Cairo, and places throughout the eastern Mediterranean have been found in several of the structures. The recovery of a so-called “grenade” (a glazed, medieval firing device) and an Ottoman musket ball were reminders of past conflicts and communal recovery.

We are getting a better understanding of the “pantry” that produced the jar burials in previous seasons in Field B. More of the larger Mamluk-era structure to which it once belonged is being uncovered, with walls several courses high.
The wall constructed of monumental boulders in Field M (on the north slope of the tell) has been excavated to the depth of several courses. Likely a wall of some antiquity, it was patched and repaired in the later medieval centuries. The function of the vaulted structure to which it belonged in the 14th century is still unknown.

Tall Hisban, of course, has an occupational history that is much older than the Mamluk era. Excavation high above the Iron Age reservoir in Field R (on the south slope of the tell) is revealing thick layers of plaster that seem to have been laid sometime in the later Byzantine period, covering the old Roman plaza.
Evening lectures and special events – Our Tuesday/Thursday evening lecture schedule continued this week. Tuesday I spoke on the Mamluks at Hisban (and Hisbani society in the Mamluk period). It was great fun to have Yossi Rapoport join me for a brief round-table discussion and Q&A with the team afterwards, to compare peasant societies in Egypt and Syria in the Mamluk era. On Thursday we gathered at the Princess Basma Women’s Center in the village of Hisban for a series of speeches and mini-lectures in Arabic (and English with Arabic translation) by project staff and community leaders.

Our visitors this week – Yossi Rapoport visited us for much of the week, getting to know the site, and becoming acquainted with how archaeologists collect data and how they interpret it. The cross-over work by historians in archaeology (and vice-versa) is gaining momentum, and Yossi’s research on rural society in Mamluk Egypt is a perfect example of this. After long days visiting the tell and talking with project members, he gracefully met with our students back at camp to advise on their research. Megan Perry, a physical anthropologist from the U.S., also came to the site one day, as did our colleague Hussein al-Sababha, who will be defending his PhD thesis at Uni-Bonn later this month.
On a final note – This week the rest of our Uni-Bonn project members joined us in the field: Abdelkader al-Ghouz (Scientific Coordinator at the Kolleg) and Sherihan Inalo and Salama Kassem (my MA students in Islamic archaeology and affiliates of the Kolleg). It is good to finally have everyone here in Jordan!

Report submitted 6 July 2018,

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

long pole of Nicolo on summit.jpg
© long pole of Nicolo on summit
Hend el Sayyed with the hand pick.jpg
© Hend el Sayyed with the hand pick
Uni Bonn team in Field O - view to Jordan River.jpg
© Uni Bonn team in Field O - view to Jordan River
grain fields and olive groves of Hisban; sheep grazing at entrance to site.JPG
© grain fields and olive groves of Hisban; sheep grazing at entrance to site
Prof. Walker and the field notebook.jpg
© Prof. Walker and the field notebook
Salama Kassem excavating her tabun.jpg
© Salama Kassem excavating her tabun
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