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Bir Madkhur Project

Jun 19, 2013 by Kelly Madigan

Staff Member: Kelly Madigan
Staff Status: Partner
Location: Wadi Musa/ Wadi Araba, Jordan
Duration: 1 month

I participated in a field season undertaking survey in the Petra hinterland on trade routes around Bir Madkhur. It is principally run by staff at George Washington University.

Bir Madhkur is a major caravan station along the ancient incense route that connected Petra in southern Jordan with the Mediterranean port of Gaza. The site was occupied in the late Hellenistic (Nabataean), Roman, and Byzantine periods. The main features of the site include a Late Roman/Byzantine army fort, a domestic settlement surrounding the fort, a bath complex or an earlier caravan station, and various ancillary structures. Sites in the vicinity of Bir Madhkur include other caravan stations, farmhouses, and nomadic encampments.

We would walk transects through the landscape and flag any sites along the way. We would then return to these sites at the end of the transect and record them with a proforma, them photograph them and survey them with a handle Trimble. We would record sites of any age, from recent Bedouin camps to Chalcolithic menhirs and flint scatters. Afternoons consisted of artefact washing and labelling and data entry. The most spectacular part of this project was recording the agricultural terraces adjacent to the dry river bed in Wadi Musa. They had been laid out in the mid to late Roman period to capitalise on the seasonally fertile plains. They have been in use in recent times for local Bedouin to grow crops.

My aim in partaking in this project was to experience the archaeological material of a new country and to comprehend how archaeology is funded and governed in Jordan. I witnessed how one can undertake a comprehensive field survey with few resources and yet still obtain a high standard of data. As a result i hope to undertake similar field survey on Dartmoor.