Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Day 7 Spilt perfume in the dust

We suspect that an Ottoman officer stationed at Fassu-ah ridge during the first world war had a penchant for German perfume – judging by our discovery of the metal lid and spray mechanism of an expensive perfume bottle dating to between 1906 and 1913.

Lawrence reports trainloads of luxury goods coming down the Hijaz railway heading for the Ottoman forces and being eagerly looted by his Bedouin irregulars. In these remote desert garrison posts there was it seems at least a whiff of the decadent Istanbul high life.

In other respects Fassu-ah ridge was bleak outpost, though one located with stunning views which reflected its commanding position overlooking the Wadi Batn Al Ghul and the Hijaz railway. Several teams have been busy excavating trenches and surveying the fort, and a picture is building is emerging of a multi-phase complex probably with a medieval core and later substantial late Ottoman re-modelling.

A metal detecting team moved west along Fassu-ah ridge to explore several more suspected Ottoman camps and associated ruined structures both on the scarp face and on the plateau. One of these sites, located 1.5 km away from the fort, is an avenue of parallel 22 tent rings of similar form to ones we’ve encountered at previous locations. Detecting these revealed a typical array of Ottoman uniform buttons and the associated paraphernalia typical of such a camp.

At other locations it appears that large stones from Ottoman tent rings have been removed and replaced in new positions at a much later date, as these revealed little or no metal activity. However the shadowy remains of these original rings revealed yet more convincing evidence of the scattering of the Ottoman forces along this terrain. This included a hitherto unseen variant of the common Crescent and Star Ottoman uniform button, with a brass back and for the first time a manufacturer name in Arabic.

Towards the end of the day back at the fort there was much discussion concerning the architectural development of what we are referring to as the Officers Mess area. It may prove to be that the arrangement of several apparently ceremonial paths leading from a putative flagpole (since disappeared) might clarify the relative sequence of construction of these buildings.

1 comment:

Anthea said...

Thanks for the photos, they really do bring your descriptions to life and the landscape views show what stunning vistas you get in Jordan; it would seem, some places are quite colourful too - seen at a distance, anyway.
I find it unexpected that luxuries were sent out for army use. Is it known whether there were any women visiting or living in the garrisons?