I am a master’s student in the Anthropology Department at East Carolina University. Throughout the months of June and July 2022, I held a Pierre and Patricia Bikai Fellowship at the American Center of Research in Amman and, while resident there, used their resources to complete the data collection for my master’s thesis, which focuses on the site of Petra, specifically the Petra North Ridge (Fig. 1). The Petra North Ridge Project, co-directed by Dr. Megan Perry and the late Dr. S. Thomas Parker, was responsible for the excavations that took place during the summers of 2012, 2014, and 2016. The North Ridge area includes households and living areas, as well as underground shaft tombs, belonging to the Nabataeans. Because this area may have been inhabited by individuals of the lower classes, given the simplistic burial styles and living conditions compared to other parts of Petra, research here contributes to creating a fuller understanding of life and death at this major site.
I have been working with collections of small finds that were excavated by the Petra North Ridge Project during their 2012, 2014, and 2016 field seasons, such as jewelry, beads, bone tools, and coffin decorations. I will be creating a comparative analysis between the artifacts found in the tombs and the ones found in the domestic areas to gain further insight into Nabataean burial practices. I hope to identify what people were most commonly buried with and if specific ritual, precious, or common household objects were chosen for this purpose.
Upon arriving in Jordan, preparations were made to access the artifact collections at the storage facility in Petra. I was able not only to access the artifacts but also to visit the site of Petra and spend time on the North Ridge looking at the areas that the artifacts came from. This granted me a better understanding of how the North Ridge fits into the site of Petra and where it is located in comparison to the sites of other main archaeological excavations here. The artifact collections were brought back to the American Center in Amman so that I could analyze them in a laboratory setting. All of the artifacts have already been cataloged, and their information has been added to an online database. Photos have also been taken of some of the artifacts.
My goal was to locate the artifacts in the collection that were important for me to see in person, which included those that had special designs or that I was not familiar with. I read the descriptions of the artifacts in the database and compared these to the artifacts themselves to make sure that the descriptions were accurate and had sufficient detail. I also went through the images and identified the artifacts that did not have photos or that needed to be rephotographed. For these, I took new pictures. This also involved taking group photos of similar artifacts, which can be used for future publications. Putting similar beads in groups, for example, or jewelry items together helps to show similarities and differences among objects of the same type (Fig. 2). My research time at the American Center led me to a better understanding of and improved documentation of the artifacts within this collection, which will allow me to complete my data collection and complete my master’s thesis.
McClean Pink is a graduate student in the master’s degree program of the Department of Anthropology at East Carolina University, North Carolina, concentrating on bioarchaeology under the supervision of Dr. Megan Perry. Her thesis will focus on artifacts recovered from Petra’s North Ridge by the Petra North Ridge Project during the 2012, 2014, and 2016 field seasons. Through her research she will explore Nabataean mortuary practices via the comparative analysis of the artifacts found in the non-elite shaft tombs and residential areas dating to the 1st century BCE and 1st century CE. From this analysis will be created an assemblage of artifacts that are related solely to Nabataean mortuary activity as opposed to domestic use. This research not only will contribute to the understanding of mortuary behavior at the North Ridge of Petra but also has the potential to further uncover Nabataean views on identity, death, and mourning.