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Posted October 1 , 2010

Laurier archaeological dig unearths rare “imports” in Iron Age house

Waterloo/Jordan - For two decades, Laurier archaeology professor Michèle Daviau has led international teams of scholars and students abroad to uncover the hidden lives of people who existed thousands of years ago.

During her most recent excavation in Jordan, Daviau was astounded by the discovery of a limestone statue and several high-status objects that appear to have been imported from outside the region.

The objects were made from a variety of materials: three small black ware vessels, one with an incised design of triangles, two faience cosmetic containers, two faience bottles, one calcite cosmetic vessel, two alabaster vessels, one fine-grain basalt bowl and a steatite cosmetic mortar were discovered in an ancient house dating back to about 600 BC.

The objects were in the same room as a 40-centimetres statue of a male with red paint preserved on his left leg and his hands. Such finds have no parallels in Jordan although their source may be Egypt or Phoenicia, said Daviau.

“The alabaster and faience objects suggest influence from the two superpowers in the region, Egypt and Assyria, but the dynamics whereby these objects arrived at the site are a mystery,” she said. “They may reflect a period of about 30 or 40 years when Egypt controlled this area.”

The principal sites under excavation by Daviau in the Wadi ath-Thamad area are Khirbat al-Mudayna and the Roman fortress of Zuna. The former is a walled Iron Age town (1,000 to 600 BC) situated on a hill with the Nabataean/early-Roman period settlement (100 BC to 150 AD) at the hill’s base. More than 150 sites that date from the Lower Paleolithic to the Ottoman period have been located in the dig’s 10- by 11-kilometre survey area.

This past summer, nearly 70 people spent six weeks working on the site. Twenty-nine Laurier students received training in field methods and lab techniques as part of a full-credit archaeology course. The team also included students from other universities and scholars from the United States, Canada, Holland and Austria, as well as local workers.

Daviau has been working on sites in Jordan for more than 20 years as part of her research on the landscape and history of the area. Daviau asked the Jordanian government for permission to excavate the current site when she saw the outlines of a wall that surrounded the area – it was an Iron Age town, her area of expertise. Excavation revealed a fortified wall-town engaged in textile production, with four factory buildings containing fragments of yarn, loom weights and various textile tools.

Laurier’s contribution to the history and archaeology of Jordan is greatly appreciated by representatives from Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, who work with Laurier students and staff each summer. Finds from the site are displayed at the archaeological museum in the town of Madaba.

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