Tell Ya'amun: The 2005 Season

Figure 1: The Students and Staff of the Combined Field Schools

The 2005 Season was our largest combined field school operation and included the University of Arkansas Bioarchaeology Field School, the Yarmouk University Anthropology Department Field School, and the Yarmouk University Archaeology Department Field School. Excavations were conducted on the Tell in addition to the tomb excavations reported here. The field schools took place from 26 June to 25 July 2005. In addition to staff and students from both universities we also employed 40 workers from the local community.

Staff of Bioarchaeology Field School:
Co-directors: Prof. Jerome Rose, University of Arkansas and Prof. Mahmoud el-Najjar, Yarmouk University
Archaeologist: Dr. Nizar Turshan
Inspector Department of Antiquities: Abed Alroof Tebashat
Registrar: Dr. Dolores Burke
Photographer: Husein Debajeh
Surveyor: Muwafaq Bataineh
Supervisors: Trey Batey, Faris Bdeir, Tamam Khasawneh and Amar Obiedat
Pottery: Zakariya N. Ben Badhunn

Goals of Tomb Excavations:

1. Search for Iron Age tombs to fill the gap between the Bronze Age tombs and Classical/Post Classical tombs previously excavated.

2. Expand the skeletal sample from the Byzantine period for the examination of health and diet indicators.

In our search for Iron Age and Byzantine tombs we excavated a total of 20 tombs from Necropolis 3 and 4, in addition to a single burial found during excavation of the church on the Tell by the Yarmouk Archaeological Field School.

Figure 2: Initial Excavations of Necropolis 3

Necropolis 3:
This year we focused our excavations on the unexplored lower slopes of the south end of Necropolis 3 with the hopes of encountering Iron Age tombs. Tombs 192 and197 are horizontal chamber tombs with no carved features inside the tombs although they have nicely carved doors. Tomb 190 is located in the rock layers below and to the north of the previously listed tombs. It is a horizontal chamber tomb with a very low doorway (requiring one to crawl into the tomb), long passage and a round chamber. The door and passage are similar to those of the previously excavated Bronze Age tombs. The chamber itself does not appear finished and may have been abandoned when poor quality rock with numerous defects was encountered. A small fragment of the spout of an Iron Age lamp was found here.

The entire front portion of Tomb 196 had collapsed leaving a round to rectangular cave. There were no carved features and testing of the fill yielded no information. The stone blocks of the roof were too massive to move and excavate underneath.






Figure 3: Tomb 190 Showing Low Entrance in the Foreground and the Collapsed Tomb Chamber Beyond






Figure 4: Blocked doorway of Tomb 199

Tombs 191, 193, 194A, 194B, 199, 200, 201, and 202 are all horizontal chamber tombs with rectangular carved doors and no carved features inside. Seven of these tombs had been connected by tunnels and passageways being carved between them providing for easy passage between. There is abundant evidence of repeated use of these tombs for grain storage (circular shafts carved through the roof), and housing for humans and animals throughout the Islamic period to modern times. Tomb 193 produced two extended burials that had been cut through the fill and a short way into the tomb floor and the shallow depth of a few centimeters into the stone indicates that these were not original use burials. They produced an iron finger ring and iron bracelet in situ. The other tombs produced miscellaneous skeletal material from as yet unknown periods of use. It seems possible that these tombs, different from all other tombs at the site, were originally constructed during the Iron Age where we have abundant domestic architecture and ceramics. Research on the contents will continue

Figure 5: Tunnel Carved in Ancient Times Between Tomb 199 and Tomb 200

Figure 6: Burial in Place Within Tomb 193

Necropolis 4:
All seven tombs excavated in Necropolis 4 provided characteristics of Byzantine tombs although they had been repeatedly robbed in modern times. Tombs 198 and 207 are horizontal chamber tombs that produced numerous skeletal remains of infants, children, and adults of both sexes. At the present time the burial of infants and young children remain characteristic of the Byzantine period.

Figure 7: Disturbed Skeletal Remains Within Tomb 198

Tomb 195 is a horizontal chamber tomb with two stone cut graves in the floor similar to others previously excavated in this necropolis. Tombs 203, 204, 205, and 206 are all horizontal shaft tombs containing a single child’s sarcophagus.





Figure 8: Tomb 204 with Child’s Sarcophagus




Tomb 206 is particularly important because it is not finished and has an unfinished sarcophagus in the tomb entryway. This situation demonstrates that stone sarcophagi were carved in place during the cutting of tombs. This particular effort was abandoned when a large part of the sarcophagus broke away. Analysis of these skeletal remains is underway and will provide significant data on health and diet during the Late Byzantine.

Figure 9: Sarcophagus Abandoned When it Broke During Carving, it Is Easy to See That it Is Still Attached to the Bedrock

Tell Burial:
One extended burial (208) was encountered in the fill of the Umayyad rooms reconstructed next to the modified church.

Figure 10: Jordanian Students Excavating in a Tomb

Figure 11: American Student Mapping Tomb

Skeletal Analysis:
A minimum number of 20 adults and 10 children were identified in the commingled remains. The bones showed healed fractures primarily on ribs, limb bones and bones of the hands and feet. Arthritis of the vertebral joints of the spine, arms, and legs was also found. One Byzantine child aged at 2 years showed evidence of iron deficiency anemia.

Figure 12: Students Washing Bones in Yarmouk University Laboratory Prior to Analysis

Tell Excavations:
Work on the Tell was undertaken by Yarmouk undergraduates fulfilling their field school obligation in the B.A. program, under Dr. Turshan’s supervision. Their training in excavation methods and techniques began with four squares and the south main bulk, with the goal of uncovering the walls of the room rebuildings adjacent to the Byzantine church that had begun in previous seasons. The results of this season show clearly that there is a continuation of the walls and rooms that have been dated to the Byzantine and Umayyad periods, and continued use in the Ayyubid and Mameluke periods.

Figure 13: Yarmouk Archaeology Students Excavating Rooms Adjacent to the Church

A continuation of the Byzantine stone pavement was discovered under the south bulk of the church. In addition, mosaic floor appeared in the east part of the church near the apse, on both the north and south. The newly discovered mosaic floors consisted of geometric designs similar to the previously uncovered floor. A continuation of the two vestry rooms was also noted, but only the foundations of both rooms, and no evidence of Umayyad or Mameluke periods was found near the apse of the church.

Figure 14: Stone Pavement next to Church

Figure 15: Mosaic Floor on Newly Discovered Vestry Room

This year the floor was photographed in one-meter contiguous squares. Work on the mosaic floor and photography was conducted by Mendy Bond as part of her senior honors thesis research at the University of Arkansas with funding provided by a SILO/SURF undergraduate research grant.

Figure 16: One By One Meter Square Photos of Mosaic Floor Being Taken

During the time since the close of excavation last year, the mosaic floor again began to show signs of encroaching vegetation, and so the previous year’s procedure was repeated. We removed all of the soil from the church floor, covered it with a layer of clean construction sand purchased specially for this purpose, then laid down a layer of thick construction-grade plastic and sealed it with tape. Then another layer of clean sand, followed by a thick layer of local soil, was spread over the entire floor.

Figure 17: Mosaic Church Floor Covered By Plastic And Clean Sand

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