Friday, 20 November 2009

Day 3 - The Beast vacated

Work finished today on the Southern encampment at Bat'n Al Ghul, with hurried last minute recording of the sample tent rings, and hasty investigation of some new ones.

In addition the metal detectorists were surveying to the north and east of the camps, an area of flat land between hills on either side. Looking for the route of the medieval trading and pilgrim caravans, they found a heavy concentration of metal artifacts including coins at the top of the escarpment where the railway now runs between two hillsides in an obvious flattened river bed area which has been used as a pathway for centuries. Coins ranged from ancients and Mamluk issues to Ottoman and more recent.  They also found a broader distribution of coins and other metalwork down in the base of the wadi - the Belly of the Beast itself, as the ground opened up into the huge flat plain. We assume this shows the way in which the caravans were funneled through the narrow pass and then widened out as they came into the open part of the wadi below the escarpment.

Our surveying team of three continued their reconnaissance down the line of the railway to the north of Aqabat Hijaz and that survey was completed today, so we have now surveyed the whole length of the line from Ma'an to Wadi Rutm, a distance of about 60 km.

Finally we sent off a small team including two retired officers with a wealth of military experience to carry out a reconnaissance of the entire study area, in order to undertake an overview appreciation of the region, and to think in Military terms as to how the Turks would have tried to seek to defend this stretch of the railway. As the theories and actual discoveries come together we will publish our developing ideas on this blog, and more formally via academic channels in due course.

During the afternoon members of the team who had joined us for the first time this year walked up the high path behind the camp sites to the hugely impressive fortress at Fassuah. (Pictures and description – see last year’s blog. All were greatly impressed by the stunning views and commanding position of this great structure.

This was our final visit to Bat’n Al Ghul, and the team will be sad to leave this place, but happy with the prospect of a much shorter bus/4x4 journey to site for the next few days.

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