Today we shifted to two new sites, an isolated blockhouse and a tent-ring encampment north of Aqabat Hijaz station. The main aim was to test the hypothesis that some camps were used by militarised labour during the construction of the Hijaz railway rather than by Turkish soldiers during the First World War. This hypothesis would lead us to expect a very different assemblage of finds from these tent rings compared with those from undoubted military use. Initially we thought we were on the right track because one set of tent rings yielded almost no finds of any type.
However this expectation was blown away in an afternoon by the projects ace metal detectorists who uncovered a wealth of military paraphernalia including two army officers’ seals, Ottoman coins and other items implying high ranking military presence rather than railroad navvies. A quick investigation by some of the diggers also discovered some fragments of army uniform, and this site looks very promising indeed.
The isolated blockhouse on the railway has been meticulously recorded by our standing building survey team, revealing a series of building phases, starting with original construction, continuing through wartime modification, and culminating in both recent restoration work and also recent military training use. An interesting feature of the archaeology o this structure is the recent air force graffiti including representations of fighter jets and military roundels and insignia.
The second set of rings at this site is proving so interesting that we will return to revisit this site on Monday, when a proper archaeological excavation of them will be undertaken.
On the way back from the desert today we were unexpectedly invited by our Jordanian friend and colleague Mansour and his wife Aklas to stop off at their house for some tea and snacks. What a lovely surprise it turned out to be, and far more than snacks! An amazing array of food cooked and wonderfully presented was laid out before 26 sand weary and dusty archaeologists. The spread was truly splendid and we would all like to express our heartfelt thanks to Mansour and Aklas for their fantastic hospitality.
Finally here is a photograph of the group standing in front of the military helicopter some of us were privileged to have flown in the other day.