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2016 Mussell Fellowship Winner Heather Robinson tells of her adventures in Jordan!


This summer I had the opportunity to participate in the Khirbat al-Mukhayyat Archaeological Project in Jordan. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to see what an archaeological excavation was really like and confirmed that I love archaeology. When we began excavating, I realized it was going to be completely different than what I was anticipating. There were various things that I had to get accustomed to such as the temperature and heavy lifting. The climate is very different from Canada’s in the summer. It is extremely hot and dry and didn’t rain once while we were there. One day there were clouds in the sky for almost 2 hours. That phenomenon made it to the excavation Twitter feed! Before the excavations began, I envisioned archaeologists sitting on a rock picking at the ground delicately with their trowels. Now I realize that when digging, you have to move at faster speeds and have the ability to move a large amount of dirt and rocks at once. Despite my fear of accidently digging through an artifact, that thankfully did not happen. Once a daily routine was established and I realized how excavations are run, it became easier and I enjoyed it more and more.

At the beginning we started out at one square. There were some architectural installations and few artifacts. We hit bedrock at a shallow level which forced us to relocate on site. The new area that we started digging in was very deep. We never reached bedrock during the season. This area had an abundance of artifacts and some architectural features. My favourite part of the excavation was when I was digging in this square and my trowel hit a hard object. As I cleared the dirt away from the object, I noticed it was a complete pot with no cracks in it or pieces missing. I was amazed that this object had been sitting there undisturbed for over a thousand years, and I was likely the first person to view it in so long. That day was very exciting!

After the digging portion was finished for the day, lab hours began. On average we washed pottery for 1 hour, and everyone had different jobs for the next hour. I learned how to register and draw pottery. After pottery drawing for a few days, it became easier than at the beginning. Others were working on object drawing and pottery mending. It was interesting to see all of the artifacts found in the field being drawn or mended in the lab. It makes the entire project come together, seeing how all of the artifacts and techniques interact with each other.

During the weekend, we had the opportunity to travel across Jordan. My favorite weekend was when we went to Petra. On the first night, we stayed in a hotel with air conditioning and a pool. The next day we went to the ancient city of Petra. I was shocked by how large it is, and that people had the ability to make a city so complex thousands of years ago. We spent the day exploring different buildings and caves. I even climbed 1000 steps to see the Monastery, which was worth it for the spectacular view. At night we drove to Wadi Rum, a dessert that stretches out for hundreds of kilometres. It looks like you are on Mars. It is even where The Martian was filmed. Many stars were visible because of the lack of light pollution. The next day everyone sat in the back of trucks, rode through Wadi Rum, and climbed sand dunes.

This entire experience was amazing, and one I will never forget. I have learned so much about archaeology and Jordanian culture through visiting sites, excavating, and lab work. It has inspired me to go on future excavations, and hopefully travel back into the Middle East. I wish to continue working in archaeology for a long time.

– Heather Robinson

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