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Archaeology in Jordan

Date: July 6, 2007
Phone: 269-471-3322

The Madaba Plains and the Tall Hisban archaeological projects in central Jordan celebrated forty years of work in Jordan on July 5 at the site of Tall Hisban. Upwards of two hundred attendees gathered on the acropolis of the over three millennia-old hilltop fortress. Speeches commemorating events in the history of the site, discussing the importance of Hisban to Jordan and the community, and putting forth a vision for partnerships between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, foreign embassies, archaeology projects, and local communities were given by the directors of the Madaba Plains Project and Tall Hisban Project and other dignitaries.

Representatives from the Jordanian government, foreign entities, the Jordanian archeological projects and sponsoring universities sat under a tent erected in the remains of a Byzantine church on the top of the "Tall." Sitting and standing on the ruins surrounding the church were residents of the area of New Hisban, Jordan and student-researchers of the Tall Hisban Project, the Tall Jalul and other archaeological projects in Jordan.

Prince Raad Bin Zeid and Senator Michel Hamerneh, representative for Prince Hassan Bin Talal, represented the royal family. Prince Raad Bin Zeid, who engaged in archaeological work with the Tall Hisban Project in the 1970s, spoke about his fond memories of the project. Prince Raad followed an introduction and welcome by Andrews University President, Niels-Erik Andreason, and director of the Madaba Plains Project, Lawrence T. Geraty. United States Ambassador to Jordan David Hale also attended, and spoke about the special relationship been Jordan and the United States. Ghazi Bisheh, former director of the Department of Antiquities spoke, as did Barbara A. Porter, director of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan. President of the Audit Bureau and Hisban native Mustafa Al Barrari spoke about his involvement after a memorable, touching introduction from Lawrence T. Geraty. Oystein S. LaBianca, director of the Tall Hisban Project, concluded the program with a call for continued partnership and understanding between the archaeological community, the Jordanian government, and the people of Hisban.

Plans for archaeological work at Tall Hisban began in 1967 by Siegfried H. Horn of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA. The following summer a team of professors and students began digging at the previously unexcavated "Tall," hoping to uncover evidence that Hisban was the biblical city of "Heshbon," as found in the Old Testament story of the Israelite conquest of Canaan and the land of the Amorites. The Heshbon Expedition continued through the late 1970s, but with developments in the work at the site, the focus shifted more toward anthropological methods of archaeology. As such, Tall Hisban became in many ways a forerunner in Middle Eastern archaeological methodologies. Additions to the field such as Sauer’s Pottery Chronology, LaBianca’s Food Systems Theory, an attention to floral and faunal analysis, and concepts such as "Sedentarization and Nomadization" and "Intensification and Abatement" have became standard fare in Jordanian and Middle Eastern archaeology.

Tall Hisban is a multi-period, multi-civilizational site--in its over three millennia of occupation it has been conquered or controlled by over twenty empires and civilizations, from the Persians, Greeks, and Romans of the Classical Period to the Ummayad, Mamluk and Ottoman empires of the Islamic Period. Most notably, Tall Hisban features a possible Ummayad bathhouse and a Mamluk fortress and governor's palace.

The Tall Hisban Project is currently in the field, working with researchers from Andrews University, Grand Valley State University, Harvard University, Oklahoma State University, and Calvin College. The summer dig began June 14, 2007 and ends July 24, 2007.

 Watch a recording of the ceremony online (14:14 - 86.5mb).

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