Umm el-Jimal in Bloom – April 1, 2012

A “bloom” of lichen at Umm el-Jimal

The following set of pictures illustrates the effects of lichen on the appearance of basalt. Basalt stone is normally a dark steel grey color, but accumulations of dead lichen resulting from growth cycles of many years result in calcified encrustations (caliche) that give some stones the appearance of light-colored lime stone, as seen in the first picture (House XVIII). The next three pictures, taken April 1, show a bloom of living lichen, which is particularly colorful this year in a northern section of the UJ ruins. The free dictionary defines lichen as “The mutualistic symbiotic association of a fungus with an alga or a cyanobacterium, or both.” That’s about as integrated as living beings can get.

Flowers in bloom at Umm el-Jimal

In April all of Jordan is ablaze with a huge variety of spring flowers. Umm el-Jimal, though it is usually described as “in the desert,” has a fair share of these. Following are close-ups of a few that I found spectacular against the backdrop of basalt-grey and lichen white.


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Progress Report – House XVII-XVIII Preservation, March 2012

Preservation of House XVII-XVIII continues at Umm el-Jimal (UJ), February-June 2012

Begun as a January-2012 Calvin College Field School featured in earlier portions of this blog, the project to preserve House XVII-XVIII continues as a field work and publication season from March to the end of June.

From March 28-May 1 and May 20-June 24 I will be working in partnership with Abdul Qader al-Husan, director of the Mafraq Regional Office of the Department of Antiquities, and Muaffaq Hazza, local UJ Project archaeologist, to carry out the preservation plans prepared during the January Field School. In June the on-site work will conclude with a publication workshop attended by me, Muaffaq Hazza, Paul Christians and Jeff DeKock, both of Open Hand Studios.

The following seven images and texts feature the funding and support organizations, the progress of the work, and the plans for its completion from late March to the end of June.

Bert de Vries

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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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