It all started at one of those famous deep-dish pizza places in Chicago during the November, 1994, meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. On a cold weekend evening before Thanksgiving, our group ate hot pizza and made plans for the first field season of Karak Resources Project (KRP), which took place in the summer of 1995. In June and July of 2011, the Karak team completed its sixth season of archaeological fieldwork in central Jordan. Gerald Mattingly
Since the initial season, in 1995, a total of 175 participants have worked on KRP – a project that investigates how ancient peoples utilized natural resources on the Karak plateau, part of the biblical land of Moab. These team members came from 10 countries and represented 45 colleges, universities, and seminaries. Participants included professors, administrators, and students – both graduate and undergraduate. Five of those graduate students wrote M.A. theses or Ph.D. dissertations on KRP-related subjects. The team also included individuals who brought special talents to this venture, including practical skills that many academic types do not possess! The professors who worked on the project applied knowledge and experience from a wide range of academic disciplines, from Anthropology to Zooarchaeology. The team excavated an ancient fortress called Khirbat al-Mudaybi, documented other sites in its vicinity, and completed many regional scientific studies. This multidisciplinary approach stands at the heart of KRP’s research agenda. As a group, the team has applied a wealth of archaeological background to this venture – with field experience at other sites in Jordan and on projects in seven other countries. Over the years, financial support came from educational institutions, churches, organizations and businesses, and interested individuals.
From the very beginning, the American Schools of Oriental Research (Boston) accredited KRP to conduct this field research. Of course, the project always worked under the auspices of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, the local agency that issues permits to international teams who work in the Hashemite Kingdom. To date, Karak Project members have published 65 preliminary reports and other special studies about data retrieved during the six summers of fieldwork. Team members have also presented scores of papers at professional meetings and made many presentations in churches, civic organizations, and classroom settings. The demands of the “final publication” – the ultimate goal of all archaeological projects – loom large on our collective horizon and will require the time, energy, knowledge, curiosity, and skills of many colleagues. So KRP continues well beyond those productive summers in Jordan!
Project participants enjoyed close association with numerous Jordanian colleagues – in Karak, Amman, Umm Hamat, Mauta, and other towns and villages. This includes official representatives from the Department of Antiquities, who worked alongside our team each summer, and many local laborers we employed to help with the tasks that an excavation entails. KRP’s appreciation also extends to guards, drivers, cooks, shipping agents, local merchants, and other friends who helped make the work in Jordan possible. Fortunately, our team’s contact with the medical community in Jordan was not extensive. The project operated under the slogan “Safety First!” In spite of occasional encounters with snakes and scorpions, difficult working conditions at the excavation site, and the hazards of driving, medical emergencies remained few and far between.
Since 1995, 18 different people with direct connections to Johnson University joined the KRP adventure in Jordan. During the project’s pilot season, Wilbur Reid Jr. (‘62) and I represented Johnson. I returned in each of the successive seasons as coordinator and archaeologist. Wilbur returned in two additional seasons (in 1997 and 2009) and offered invaluable assistance – as only Wilbur Reid could! He participated in all aspects of the excavation and served as one of our chief “engineers” (i.e., those team members who have invaluable practical skills).
In 1997, Carlos Fields (‘63) served KRP in many capacities – from digging to engineering – and he became a star in what we would call “public relations.” To this day, the Jordanians who worked with us over the years talk about how much they enjoyed the chance to work with Carlos. In the summers of 1999 and 2001, Greg Linton (‘82) joined the team and took on special duties with the regional survey, whose job it was to locate and study previously undocumented archaeological sites. The 2001 field team benefitted from the participation of four Johnson University alumni – Rick Absher (‘79), Valdecy DaSilva (‘93) (who returned in 2009), Dean McNamara (‘02), and Katrina (Rowland ‘01) McNamara. All four participated energetically in the excavation of Mudaybi, and three of the four entertained the Jordanian laborers with their unusual English accents – well, unusual to people who do not come from Brazil and New Zealand!
In 2009, Ralph Carnathan, a member of Johnson’s Board of Trustees, joined the fieldwork and was a pivotal member of the land survey party and the “engineering” department, along with Wilbur Reid. We assigned two excellent student participants, Hadassah Penwell (‘10) and Melissa Spong (‘11), to two different sections (called “fields”) of the excavation site; they helped move the work along in those respective areas and received praise from their supervisors.
During KRP’s 2011 field season, we enlisted the participation of seven additional people with Johnson ties: Adam Bean (‘07), Leslie (Mattingly ‘07) Bean, Christiann DaSilva (‘10), Jeremiah McLeod (‘13), Philip Eubanks (‘81), Jody Owens (‘95), and Jerome Prinston (‘87). This group helped make the 2011 field season a success. All of them dug energetically (and followed proper procedures!). Philip took on additional engineering duties; Leslie helped to organize and pack artifacts and other materials for shipping; and Jeremiah helped keep things on track as land surveyor.
By all accounts, Karak Resources Project has offered all of its participants, including the 18 from Johnson University, a rich educational experience in a fascinating part of the world. From the start, the School and the project were a perfect fit. Johnson generously supported and promoted the KRP agenda, and we believe that the project’s purpose and results brought – and will continue to bring – benefits back to Kimberlin Heights.
Dr. Gerald Mattingly serves as professor of Intercultural Studies and coordinator of the Honors Program. Jerry is curator for the Joseph A. Callaway Collection, housed at Johnson University. Jerry and wife, Pam, have two grown daughters.