by Miya Pletsas
I had the opportunity to participate in the Khirbat al-Mukhayyat Archaeological Project in Jordan for my first field school as an undergraduate from Wilfrid Laurier University thanks to a Jennifer C. Groot Memorial Fellowship award from the American Center of Research. I enjoyed working alongside my peers, the local community, and professors, including Dr. Debra Foran. Throughout my time in Jordan, I learned new terminology, used my knowledge and skills from past classes, and participated in what is, for me, a new culture. The team members and I were fortunate to open up a handful of units, go on survey, and practice our lab work. Excavation was conducted with research goals in mind: Khirbat al-Mukhayyat was a lively area during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and the archaeological data make clear that there was social, political, and economic development taking place here. The 2023 season had a set of objectives, such as mapping and collecting data from architectural finds, collecting artifacts and samples, as well as analyzing the data, entering it into the database, and undertaking preservation/conservation. The students had the chance to experience all aspects of the archaeological process, including excavation, survey, flotation, and various kinds of lab work. The lab work I performed consisted of washing and sorting pottery for further analysis. Object drawing and pottery registration were also a part of the afternoon routine.
My favorite part of the field school was excavating on site. Searching for artifacts and learning not only more about them but also why it was either common or rare to find different types of objects was very interesting. The archaeological fieldwork experience felt unreal—not only was the view from the site spectacular, but being able to see the new research focuses for the year was exciting. Participating in this project in Jordan was an unforgettable experience as I learned more about not just the archaeology but also the local culture and people. I also very much enjoyed my first time surveying in the wadi, which I was able to experience with good friends, mentors, and colleagues. I enjoyed the hike and searching the surface for pottery, lithic tools, and other objects. I was able to apply my knowledge from one of my courses, Artifact Analysis, which made these artifacts easier to spot in the condensed fields.
Living in Madaba was an enriching experience; just walking to different shops and trying different foods added to our cultural understanding. Some of my favorite things to eat were the pita and hummus, falafel wraps, and shawarmas. Our cook also made our group delicious dishes for lunch, and in Wadi Rum we were able to try a traditional meal cooked underground. All the Jordanians on the project were very welcoming and made our time in Jordan very enjoyable. It was a pleasure to get to know them.
Throughout my time in Jordan, every weekend our group went on field trips to different archaeological sites. Some of my favorites were Jerash, Petra, Wadi Rum, and Qasar Azraq. I enjoyed seeing Qasar Azraq, as I was fascinated by the basalt blocks with which the castle was built. Walking through the Roman city of Jerash was amazing, especially seeing the Temple of Artemis and the Temple of Zeus. Jerash was especially impressive for how large and well-preserved the temples are. Hiking through the trails at Petra was an unforgettable experience. Being with my peers and walking on the steps to get to the monastery—and seeing the whole site from the highest points—was an amazing journey. After Petra we went to Wadi Rum, where the night sky was saturated with stars. Not only were we fed a delicious dinner, but being a part of a group of students running around in the desert was lots of fun and a satisfying way to end that weekend trip.
Overall, my field-school experience was more than I could have ever expected. Khirbat al-Mukhayyat was so beautiful and everyone on the project was very helpful. I learned much through excavating and enjoyed learning about Jordan’s complex history. The Near East has such interesting archaeology, and I hope to come back and study more in Jordan.
Miya Pletsas is an undergraduate student attending Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. She is majoring in archaeology and heritage studies, with a minor in North American studies. She has just finished her second year and is a member of the Archaeology Society. She also volunteers at pottery labs and works as an instructional assistant for a first-year archaeology course. She is interested in Near Eastern archaeology and enjoys learning about pottery. Miya will be completing her fieldwork credit at the Khirbet al-Mukhayyat Archaeological Project in Jordan in the summer of 2023 thanks to the Jennifer C. Groot Memorial Fellowship offered by the American Center of Research.