iPods. iPads. GPS. GIS. An octocopter UAV. This summer’s archaeological dig at Tall al-’Umayri in Jordan —the 17th—featured an alphabet soup of high-tech equipment.
- Using iPods and iPads, the team recorded all the data about the dig, and an online database made it available to scholars almost instantaneously.
- With a ProMark 3 GPS system, the team placed every earth layer, wall, and artifact three-dimensionally on a GIS platform so any part can be reconstructed on demand.
- Ground-penetrating radar helped with the search for ancient tombs. The team did not find more 5,000-year-old tombs near another “dolmen” tomb from that period, as they had hoped. But they did find a complete human lower jaw for research.
- They created a visual record using 3-D videos and still photographs, a steadicam, and a new octocopter UAV (drone). They can now reconstruct the entire landscape and anything on it in 3-D models for research and display.
This season, the nearly 40 staff and volunteers did not find any artifacts as exciting as the four-room house excavated in 1994. The earthen ramparts outside the city wall, though, did begin to emerge, with one layer dating to around 1200 BC, the time of the biblical judges. Artifacts found on the ramparts are mostly of the type the ancient inhabitants tossed over the city wall, showing again that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Exploration of the remote farmstead revealed wine presses, storage facilities, and water cisterns carved into the exposed bedrock.
The biannual dig is sponsored by La Sierra University, with support from a consortium of North American universities and Versacare Foundation grants. Among the team members for this season, which ran from June 25 through July 30, was Prince Tareq Judeh of the Jordanian royal family, who is a student at the University of Edinburgh.