Prof trucks in artifacts lab, bolsters LSU collections
July 17, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( www.lasierra.edu ) It took almost four hours and lots of back muscle. But by noon on June 24 facilities personnel and La Sierra University archaeologist and religion Professor Doug Clark had carted 5.5 dusty tons of ancient Middle Eastern pottery pieces, bones and other artifacts off a 26-foot truck. Armed with transportation dollies, Clark and the workers wheeled load after load of red-plastic, artifacts-laden crates and boxes into a La Sierra laboratory.
The artifacts, consisting of 3,200-year-old storage jar pieces, human bones, seeds, stone, metal, ceramic and charcoal, comprise Clark's archaeology lab housed for many years at Walla Walla University in Walla Walla, Wash. Clark left Walla Walla the morning of June 22, driving the truckload of artifacts, and arrived at La Sierra the following afternoon. The lab's arrival significantly expands La Sierra's archaeological collections.
Before joining the faculty at La Sierra in 2006, Clark served as professor of biblical studies and archaeology at Walla Walla and was later executive director of the Boston-based American Schools of Oriental Research.
Clark's Walla Walla lab housed objects excavated between 1984 and 2006 at the La Sierra-sponsored Tall al-‘Umayri archaeological dig site in Jordan, an ongoing project he currently directs. Most of the accumulated artifacts date to 1200 B.C., the time of the Old Testament Judges, Clark said. "We also have ‘Umayri artifacts from 3000 B.C., 2400-2200 B.C., 1600 B.C., 1350 B.C., 1100-1,000 B.C., 800 B.C, 600 B.C. and 150 B.C.," he said.
Tall al-‘Umayri is part of the three-site Madaba Plains Project which last year celebrated its 40th anniversary. This October, Equinox Publishing in London will release a 40th anniversary volume detailing the excavations and significant finds of the Madaba Plains Project. Clark led a team of directors to edit the book, which is dedicated to archaeologist and La Sierra University President Emeritus Larry Geraty and his wife, Gillian.
Clark joined archaeological endeavors in Jordan in 1973, working at the Madaba Plains Hisban dig site alongside Geraty who joined excavations there in 1968. Over the years, Clark and Geraty have unearthed some of Jordan's most significant biblical-era artifacts. Jordan's Department of
Antiquities allows them to remove and use the artifacts on either long-term or permanent loan. Clark led excavations over a six-year period that ultimately unearthed a "four-room" house. "This [house] was the discovery of discoveries," said Clark, which has attracted scholars from around the world.
In Walla Walla, students and community volunteers, over 15 years, painstakingly glued together the 3,200-year-old pottery jar pieces. All told, the reassembled fragments resulted in 75, three-foot-high ancient storage jars all excavated from the four-room house. In order to pack the jars for truck transportation from Walla Walla to La Sierra, students had to break the storage jars back down into pieces through a water soaking and re-soaking process that included cleaning old glue off the fragments. La Sierra students will begin rebuilding the jars using water-soluble Elmer's glue to allow for mistakes. Clark expects this time-consuming process to take years to complete.
Remains from ‘Umayri will be subjected to a variety of scientific analyses. La Sierra chemistry Professor Jennifer Helbley and Honors student Canty Wang will study some of the pottery to determine the source of the clay the ancients used. In addition, biology Professor Lee Greer and Honors student Meagan Miller will use DNA sequencing equipment to determine whether four individuals, whose disarticulated, burned bones were discovered in the four-room house, are related. These bones will be returned to Jordan and re-buried once DNA sequencing is complete. Results from DNA analyses will be published. Burned remains of samples, including barley seeds and carbonized wooden beams and posts, will be analyzed by carbon-14 dating techniques.
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