Saturday, 22 November 2008

Day 10 – Walking the lines

Today one team walked the Hijaz railway from Aqaba Hijaz to Batn AL Ghul to explore the flanking landscape. On hill to the east they found a small observation/machine gun point with a small trench alongside. Several hundred metres further south along the same ridge were the remains of an Ottoman encampment composed of between 4 to 6 tent rings, and two U-shaped animal tethering structures, one of which produced 2 small donkey or mule shoes. Returning to the railway embankment and continuing south they spotted the remains of an intriguing structure at the base of the eastern wadi wall. Upon examination it transpired with the expert insight of one of our Jordanian colleagues that this was the partially collapsed remains of an Islamic domed building covering a well-head, which itself was probably originally Nabatean.

Most of the team were hard at work on the plateau on the top of the Batn AL Ghul escarpment. Half the excavators continued to work at Fassu-ah ridge fort, revealing two possible latrines outside the perimeter wall, while others worked on the nearby bread oven, others again excavated inside the central building. Here exciting finds included Ottoman smoking paraphernalia and uniform fragments.

Another group of excavators further along the ridge worked on the site of the Ottoman mule and donkey tethering place. The evidence revealed includes a rectangular area of clearance where animals were probably tied up, a feeding trough with possible remains of cereals fed to the animals, and a surface scatter of mule and or donkey shoes. A new dimension of the project is developing in which the logistical tale of the Ottoman army on the Arab front becomes visible to archaeological research.

In the afternoon another team made a brief exploration of the section of Hijaz railway to discover a very well preserved trench with rounded ends and side trench representing the western most defences found in Wadi Batn Al Ghul.

Meanwhile the detectorists surveyed the wide ancient path to the east of the modern railway line for evidence of metal items which would confirm the nature and scope of it's use. This flat long path represents the lead in to the traditional pilgrimage and trade route which drops down the escarment before continuing it's journey south. In a mile and a half of this ancient route many items including coins and other artifacts ranging from ancient times to the middle of the last century were discovered, thus indeed corroborating the location as being part of this ancient established route.

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