In January 1918 Captain V.D. Siddons, a member of X Flight of the Royal Flying Corps, flew over a region of desert to the north of Tel El Shahm. Siddons is recorded as acting as Lawrence's pilot at some point during the period. When he returned to base he made a sketch map, from memory, of a fortified position in the region. This map was discovered by one of our team in the National Archive in 2008, and subsequently he visited the area to try to find the site itself.
Today the team went down to the very site in the sketch map drawn by Reverend Siddons. This huge site, with redoubts, trenches, gun emplacements and other features appears to be set in a location that has been occupied in one way or other for centuries, if not millenia. It is also the subject of a descriptive passage in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which will be included in a later blog - we will be at the site for three days in total.
Work began today investigating some of the main features. At the same time the detectorists swept the slope in front of the ridge and one of the redoubts for evidence of conflict. The preliminary work uncovered several interesting finds but we need to go back again to gather more information before we can make any real sense of the site. One of the difficulties is that the re-use of the site over time has meant that several layers of historical evidence are apparent in some areas. Work will continue on Friday and Saturday here and the blog will be updated as we gather insight.
Today we also have another in our series of reflections on the project by one of this year's members. This is what Zheng Xu thinks about her experience of being with us so far:
"Being a first time volunteer participating in GARP, I did not know what to expect besides the legendary story of T. E .
and the desert weather. I have to admit that I experienced some pre-trip anxiety unlike any other times. But my experiences tell me that the meaning of this journey will unfold as we become more engaged in the daily activities. Lawrence
Now we have past the half way point of this journey, after days of hard physical work, my clothing and any exposed surface of my body being covered by sand, numeral "comfort breaks" in any facilities mother nature has to offer, daily lunch of pita bread and hummus and sweet dates, and the mid morning tea breaks to which we all look forward, I have to say this is an unique experience of one's lifetime.
It is unique in the archaeological objectives of GARP. I am honored to be part of a trailblazing project that is unearthing the evidences of an important part of the modern history that shaped the current landscape of the
Middle East. In the current political context, it makes one reflect more on the implications of modern conflicts and war fare.
It is unique in the setting where our work takes place. Our physical work each day is being rewarded by the wondrous beauty of the Southern Jordanian desert with its shadows and forms dancing in constantly changing light, prehistoric villages and roadside Roman forts, and the silhouette of a line of camels wandering through the desert at dusk...
It is unique in the multinational team that is comprised of experts and volunteers of all age groups with a range of interests, knowledge, skills and kindness towards each other and sensitivity towards the land, people and the work.
To me, the meaning of this journey will continue to unfold in the days and years to come."
Tomorrow the main group will be on a quick tour of some of the other previously investigated sites that we have looked at over the past 5 seasons, which will enable them to 'fill in the blanks' of the work on the project that has been undertaken so far.