Monthly Archives: January 2012

Jerusalem and Bethlehem

The Calvin group decided to stay in the Middle East during interim break to visit a few places in Israel/Palestine. Much of the time was spent sightseeing. Popular destinations in Jerusalem were the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Mount of Olives. There was also a side trip to Bethlehem for one morning. Many students took that opportunity to shop but also visited the Church of the Nativity, the Milk Grotto, and the shepherds’ fields. The team also visited Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood that is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian controversy, and heard from a local man who works at a Silwan community center.

The Dome of the Rock and a Christian church - View from the Austrian Hospice where the Calvin group stayed.

People worshipping at the Western Wall.

Michael Valk in the tunnels by the Western Wall.

Michael Valk in the tunnels by the Western Wall.

Josh Betts at the Dome of the Rock.

Madi Goodman and Jake Ter Haar entering the Church of the Nativity.

Calvin student Amanda Kok and a Silwan resident who was paralyzed during riots in the neighborhood.


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Final Presentation and Southern Jordan

After finishing their work at Umm el-Jimal the Calvin College team took a day trip around southern Jordan. The first stop was the Dead Sea, after which the students washed of in a hot spring just up the beach. The bus then went to the top of Mount Nebo to visit the place where Moses was allowed to see the Promised Land. Unfortunately it was raining so the view was not perfect. Just a short way from Mount Nebo lies the city of Madaba. A city famous to tourists for its mosaics.

The next day the Umm el-Jimal team went to the American Center for Oriental Research (ACOR) to present their findings. Bert de Vries and other team members gave a lecture about the 2012 field season and the future goals of the project to an aidience of scholars and friends alike.

Salt crystal covered rocks at the Dead Sea.

Calvin students floating in the Dead Sea.

Calvin students enjoying the hot springs.

A mosaic map of the Holy Land in Madaba.

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Wrapping up at Umm el-Jimal

The Umm el-Jimal Project team is midway through its third week, after which the Calvin students will leave. Some of the things that were accomplished are the writing of a tour pamphlet for future visitors to use, the mapping of House XVII-XVIII, a preservation proposal to be carried out by a working team this summer, The discovery of several new features at House XVII-XVIII, the filming of several ethnographic vignettes from local citizens, and much more!

Amanda Kok preparing for documentation photography.

A partially filled ancient reservoir. This is one of the features the Umm el-Jimal Project hopes to restore to its former use.

Falafel and Shrak bread is the food of choice for the Calvin students.

Dessert at the house of a Druze family in Umm el-Jimal.

Our landlord's four-day-old camel with its mother.

Some Calvin students hard at work!

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Side Trip #2 – Petra

The second weekend trip the Calvin archaeology students took was to Petra, the ancient capital of the Nabataeans. For two days the students were given free reign of the site to hike and explore at their will. They did everything from climbing the highest summit of Jebel Hauron to visiting the ancient temple and church sites, watching the sunset from atop high structures, and enjoying the local shops.

Josh Betts and Keith Van Dusen watching the sunset from atop the monastery at Petra.

Jake Ter Haar, Michael Valk, and Evan Elliot at the top of the monastery.

Jake Ter Haar and Michael Valk exploring.

The Calvin team at "The End of the World"

Evan Elliot and Jake Ter Haar at "The End of the World"

Evan Elliot, Josh Betts, and Keith Van Dusen returning to the monastery from "The End of the World."

Some brave team members hiked to the summit of "Jebel Hauron," the highest point in Petra. In this photo are Michael Valk, Jake Ter Haar, and Jobadiah Christiansen.

Jake Ter Haar, Michael Valk, and Evan Elliot enjoying the view from Jebel Hauron.

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Side Trip #1 – Amman

The first weekend side trip the 2012 Umm el-Jimal team took was to Amman, the capital city of Jordan. Using the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) as a base the Calvin students explored such exciting sites as Jerash and the Amman citadel. Both of the aforementioned sites were cities of the Ancient Greek Decapolis that shared similar cultural heritage to Umm el-Jimal. Along with those two major sites, students also visited the new Jordan museum (which is not yet open to the public), the ancient theatre of Amman, the Amman folklore museum, and Reem Shwarma (a street food station that has been featured in the NY Times)

Hadrian's Arch welcoming the Calvin students to Jerash.

The view from the top row of the theatre at Jerash!

Evan Elliot and Michael Valk wearing their new keffiyehs.

The Amman Citadel (Greek: Acropolis of Philadelphia)

The Calvin team at the Amman Citadel.

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The Umm el-Jimal Project 2012 Field Season

Umm el-Jimal is a small village in northern Jordan that is built around the ruins of an ancient city. The ancient town, starting as a rural settlement, was built under the influence of the Nabataeans (the culture that built Petra) in the late first century AD, eventually falling under the influence of the Romans who controlled it for several centuries. Most what is visible now was constructed later in the Byzantine era and continued to prosper under the Umayyad Caliphate only starting to decline during the Abbasid period. A major earthquake damaged the town around AD 747 and many scholars have suggested that shortly afterward the region experienced a plague. By AD 900 Umm el-Jimal was all but abandoned, having only sporadic occupation from 900-1900 with sparse archaeological remains.

In the early twentieth century new life was breathed into the site when a community of Druze people came down from the mountain range known as the Jebel Druze (alternately known as the Jebel Arab) and began reconstructing the ruins as their homes. Their alterations are still visible throughout the site. The local Bedouin Msa’eid also used the ruins as part-time homes until quite recently, allowing their herds to roam through the ancient town. After World War I, under the British mandate, the previously nomadic Msa’eid began to settle into the modern sedentary village built around the ruins.

The Umm el-Jimal Project aims to use archaeological methods to promote tourism, cultural heritage, and respect for antiquities in this village of northern Jordan. The 2012 field season of the Umm el-Jimal project started when Calvin professor Bert de Vries received an Ambassador Grant from the U.S. Government for cultural preservation. The money from the grant is going towards preserving and consolidating a large Byzantine/Umayyad building in the ruins called House XVII-XVIII. This building is at the center of the work being done over the 2012 interim.

The famous double window of House XVII-XVIII

Professor de Vries teaching from atop a staircase in House XVIII.

Jobadiah Christiansen discovering a never before mapped archway!

An ancient water reservoir. Many of the ancient waterways of Umm el-Jimal still work. Since water is precious in the Hauron Desert, the Umm el-Jimal project is trying to restore the usage of these ancient reservoirs for the modern community.

Project director Bert de Vries with his wife Sally and Jordanian archaeologist Muaffaq Hazza with his daughters.

Sally de Vries and some Calvin students enjoying coffee at the house of Umm el-Jimal archaeologist Muaffaq Hazza.


A male camel showing his dominance... Maybe someone should tell him he looks pretty goofy doing that.

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