Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Digging up the recent past

At the start of this year, the Great War Archaeology Group got in touch with me. The GWAG had recently got back from excavating two sites in southern Jordan, places I had also visited during the research I did for Setting the Desert on Fire. I have the greatest respect for them. Whereas I had stopped to take a few photographs and have a look about, they had spent a fortnight under the sun, surveying and digging.

Since for me, archaeology is inextricably connected to the consumption of significant volumes of real ale, their efforts were all the more impressive since they spent their time around the town of Maan, one of the more conservative parts of Jordan, and certainly some distance from the nearest keg of beer. I was delighted to be able to help them tie down the name of the station that they had been excavating on the plain south of Maan, at Wadi Rethem (Rutm), where I had briefly stopped in September 2004.

The discoveries GWAG have made are of real interest in the understanding of the Arab revolt. They have begun to shed some light on the lives of the Turkish soldiers who were stationed along the railway, and provide evidence of the fierce fighting in April 1918 around Maan station.

For a taste of where they were, do visit their website and read their excellent report, which takes a little while to load. They return to Jordan later this year. It will be fascinating to see what more they unearth this time round.

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