From February to May 2015, ACOR was fortunate to have the assistance of two student interns—Thomas Harr from George Washington University and Gregory Dgheim from Cornell University—from the Diplomacy and Policy Studies program of the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) in Amman. As part of their work at ACOR, Thomas and Gregory supported the work of the Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management (TWLCRM) Initiative, including managing the project’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/twlcrm). In early March, Thomas and Gregory made a brief, one-day trip to Petra to work with the team on site and learn more about the project’s goals and objectives. Their experiences on site are related here.
Our trip to the Temple of the Winged Lions site in Petra was an extraordinary and truly unique experience. After arriving on site, we immediately received a tour of the grounds from project co-director Elena Ronza, and were familiarized with both the progress made on the project and the important work that still remains to be done.
The temple itself is an impressive structure, with its imposing columns, both fallen and standing, and a grand entryway that gives access to the inner sanctuary. The site is beautifully perched atop a hill overlooking the ancient colonnaded street that runs through the center of Petra, and tourists can clearly be seen walking by the site, taking pictures and pointing curiously at the structure. The scale of the TWLCRM project, especially the scope of both completed and pending work, soon became apparent to both of us. Many of the temple’s walls, for example, are in desperate need of conservation, while portions of the building’s foundations require urgent attention.
We were then shown the many soil dumps created by earlier excavations at the site, with particular emphasis on Soil Dump 4, which the TWLCRM team is currently working to clear. The size of the dumps and the disruption they have caused to the surrounding landscape were plainly visible. Adjacent to the dumps are various areas reserved for the storage of artifacts and materials recovered during the dump clearing process, including pottery sherds, “clean” sifted soil, and collected stone rubble. The recovered pottery in particular is a testament to the amount of valuable information that can still be found in the dumps of previous excavations. Close to these storage areas are several raised soil beds planted with different local species, a TWLCRM experiment to determine how best to rehabilitate the barren landscape around the temple.
Following our site tour, we were introduced to the team members working on the project. We learned that all of them were very familiar with the area even before they began working on the TWLCRM project, since they are mostly Bedouin from Petra and the surrounding areas. They told us stories of local traditions and how their families used to live within the site of Petra itself. They were also very hospitable and provided us breakfast. They even shared their shisha with us afterwards! But, after enjoying a nice breakfast with the team, it was time to get to work!
In working with the team, we were able to experience firsthand how the soil from Dump 4 is being cleared. Digging into the manmade hill and sifting through the previously excavated dirt was hard but rewarding. With every pile of dirt we pulled out of the dump, we would find several sherds of pottery in the sift. After removing all pottery and other objects, the sifted dirt was shoveled into wheelbarrows and taken to the designated storage area. After an hour of work, we had recovered a sizeable pile of pottery and felt quite accomplished.
Our visit to the TWLCRM made quite an impression and really gave us a feel for the amount of thought that has gone into almost every aspect of the project. And while working with the team to clear Dump 4 certainly improved our understanding of the current work on site, we also came away with a tremendous appreciation for the team members themselves. Our day with the TWLCRM project allowed us to appreciate the historical and cultural value of the site, and inspired us to play our part in its objectives during the semester.
Written by Thomas Harr and Gregory Dgheim