Saturday, 21 November 2009

Day 4 - Waheida - a major Arab forces base.

Our investigations today at Waheida East started a little shakily. Three 4x4 pick-ups packed with archaeologists and equipment attempted to find a way up the Jebel to the dig sites. We failed on the first five attempts! All apparent obvious tracks lead into blind alleys or back where we had started. But then, finally, we were there, thanks in no small part to a certain Aussie's highway building skills. And what a site we have begun to uncover: A central Ottoman redoubt with semi-subterranean structures that are almost intact; a forward trench line visible to the naked eye after 90 years of wind blown sand and Turkish bullets - all in the burning sun with no shade.

Waheida lies about 10km south west of Ma'an, and was one of the fortified sites on the road between Ma'an and Aqaba, that was captured briefly by Arab forces in June 1917 in the advance on Aqaba. It was then lost again and subsequently re-taken by the arabs in February 1918. From then on it was the main arab base for Faisal's forces. The site consists of two long ridges - what we are calling the eastern hill and the western hill - separated by a wadi. On the eastern hill were three Ottoman redoubts, probably built in late 1917, visible on Google earth and also shown on an air reconnaissance sketch done at the beginning of 1918. We began to draw plans of the three redoubts today.

Another part of the team, meantime, worked on the western hill. Here we have been surveying a strange and complex mixture of stone alignments and features, and metal detecting, finding a mix of Ottoman and Anglo-Arab artifacts.

Some of the interesting metal detecting finds from Waheida include a silver perfume bottle top - a smaller version of the one found last year at Fassuah, five British army buttons - cuff and tunic variety, along with many fired bullets both Mauser, British 303 and a French cartridge case. One of the most interesting finds is what we think is a watch case, heavily engraved in an Ottoman style, providing an example of a high-status artifact coming from the site. We've found heavy calibre artillery shell buffer plates for the base made by Vickers & Son Maxim and a whole host of other small sundry finds, all of which add up to it being higher status site than normal, and we are looking forward eagerly to continuing the detector survey throughout the other areas of the extended site. Work is likely to continue at this very large site for many days.

More images to follow...


  1. Brilliant! Got the Google Earth coordinates?

  2. Hi Bill - I'll have a look and try to post them after digging today.