Just finished up the first full day of work here in eastern Jordan. The temperature wasn’t too bad today, in the low 30s probably. It was pretty dusty but that is to be expected in a windy desert. It’s not your stereotypical desert in this part of Jordan, that is to the south in the Wadi Rum area and is also the location where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. We are working near the town of Azraq and the desert has a darker colour. There is a lot of basalt, as you will hear about shortly, some scrubby plants, and a lot of flint on the surface that takes on a desert varnish which gives it a blue-ish colour. There is a lot of sand but not the fine grained dunes that immediately pop into everyone’s head. This what the landscape looks like in our area around the town (North is roughly straight up and thanks Google Earth!).
We spent this morning getting our site area ready for excavation. This involved tying our survey equipment back into last years grid, finding the trenches from last year, cleaning them off and starting to remove the backfill. We were a bit concerned about how much disturbance the past year of construction had below the surface so we also put in a small test pit to determine the stratigraphic integrity. This testpit was finished up by lunch (good news!) and we had made good progress on identifying the perimeter of the pit from last year.
After a short break for lunch and a few minutes rest at the lodge we split into two crews and headed back out. One crew of 4 to the morning’s site to finish clearing off the perimeter. Myself and two others headed a bit further north to follow up on a project started last year, as well as survey the upland basalt for more evidence of the prehistoric lake shore. The project we started last year looks at the natural patterns of desert weathering on bone and it involved quickly locating and mapping some bone we documented last year. After that was done I headed up slope into the basalt areas and found a few more blocks with eroded shorelines in them. I am specifically looking for an eroded bench with the right types of sediment attached that I can use to get a reasonable date for the shoreline. Although we don’t have a date yet, based on some sedimentary analysis that myself and Carlos Cordova presented at the Association of American Geographer’s annual meeting this year, we think the shoreline fits into the Marine Isotope Stage 5e interglacial (or roughly 110,000-130,000 years ago). So, no dateable sample yet, it just means I get to keep looking. I have to do more survey regardless if I am going to get a reasonable map of the shorleine perimeter and an accurate elevation anyway. Unfortunately nothing knock your socks of exciting to report yet but spending the day hiking through the desert isn’t that bad. Here’s a picture of one upland bench to give you an idea of what I have been and am looking for.