Daily Life on the dig at Pella

Location of Pella

I know we are biased, but we feel Pella is situated in one of the more-beautiful regions of Jordan. Our dighouse sits alone on top of the main mound with sweeping views of the Jordan Valley. Behind us steep hills rise up dotted with groves of oak. Immediately surrounding the dighouse are Byzantine basilicas, Roman tombs (many with the sarcophagi still in place) and many wall lines jutting out of the vegetation. Everywhere you walk ancient pottery litters the ground. While we are at Pella it is late winter/spring so the temperatures are mild and the flowers, given a bit of rain, can be spectacular. Most importantly we are part of the local community - both the town dwellers of the nearby village of Tabaqat Fahl, as well as groups of Bedoiun who camp nearby in their goat hair tents. As well as being part of the local community, you become firmly part of the 'Pella Family' as you make friends and learn from your archaeologist co-workers.

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A panoramic view over the main mound at Pella.

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One of three Byzantine period basilicas at Pella.

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A local camel checks out the ruins!

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Cows in the Middle East? You'd better believe it!

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Umm Juma; a matriarch of a local Bedouin family.

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The beautiful landscape of Pella attracts locals for picnics.

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A typical dig team of archaeologists and volunteers.

Accommodation

The team stays in the Pella dighouse, which is located in a compound on the main tell. Our rooms are comfortable, but not luxurious. If you want five star accommodation, we suggest you take a cruise down the Nile. But if you don't mind sharing a room, and being well fed with a comfortable mix of Arabic and Western food, provided by one of the finest dig cooks in the country, then we think you'll like what you find. All bedding is provided, and we can usually arrange separate accommodation for couples. The dighouse has hot and cold running water, western-style sanitary facilities; we'll even do your laundry for you. And because the excavations are there at hand, you can step out the door and into the past in a matter of minutes.

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The courtyard at the Pella dig house is a comfortable place to relax.

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Sit on a Byzantine column capital in the Pella courtyard.

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The interior of the Pella dig house.

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Lunch time at the Pella dig house.

Dig Activities

Volunteers are offered the chance to participate in all aspects of a working dig. To give you a full understanding of just what it is to be an archaeologist, we divide your time up between working in the trenches, and taking part in house activities. To this end, the team is divided into small groups, who each spend a few days in the house or field before swapping roles. This rotation continues until the end of your stay.

Field work

Each volunteer is assigned to a trench supervisor, who will be your buddy for the duration of the dig. You assist them in the day to day running of the trench; supervising local workmen, handling the more delicate excavation work, taking samples and bagging artefacts. We'll train you in archaeological techniques, and show you how we come to interpret the things we find. By following the progress in your trench, you will get to see every aspect of field recording. As your trench gets deeper over the weeks, so will your understanding of what archaeology is all about.

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Local workers do the hard digging work.

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Volunteers help with planning the walls and features in their trench.

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... and with trowelling.

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... but watch who is behind you!

House work

Our work doesn't end when we step out of the trenches; half of any archaeologist's time is spent on processing and making sense of the things we find. So for some of your time at Pella, you will be working with our experts in the house in cleaning, sorting and identifying artifacts. You will be able to follow the progress your favourite objects, developing skills in the process which will help you recognise artefacts when you go back out into the field. As part of the daily house routine, we also arrange a short morning tour of the site, to let you keep up to date with happenings in your own trench, and gain a broader perspective of how your experience fits in with the overall archaeological and historical picture.

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Volunteers washing artefacts in the dig house.

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Stone, bone, and shell arefacts drying after being washed.

Other events which take place during the dig

Every Friday trips to local sites such as the Crusader period Ajlun Castle, the Roman remains at Jerash, Umm Qais overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the important Christian centre of Madaba are organised. For these trips we hire a local bus and it is an ideal way to see the immediate environs of Pella. At the end of the season we can arrange transport for you to the world-reknowned ruins at Petra. Additionally, in the evenings there are occasional lectures on archaeological themes, afternoon walks to nearby features such as the 12,000 year old site of Wadi Hammeh, and what no self-respecting dig can be without: a fancy dress party at the end of the season!

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A volunteer group heading off on a day excursion.

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A volunteer group at Ajlun Castle.

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A volunteer group walking down the main road of Roman Jerash.

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Meeting the locals is a big part of your time at Pella.

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Fancy dress parties test your inventiveness!

Other things to do in Jordan

Pella is in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Jordan, and we know you'll like to take the time to get to know the area better. So we leave you with the option of some leisure time in the afternoons, which you can use to meet the local villagers, or explore some of the surrounding countryside. Investigate the Bronze Age and Byzantine rock-cut tombs around the area, or go searching for some of the many new sites discovered in the recent Pella Hinterland Survey. Climb up into the hills for a breathtaking view of the Jordan valley, and stop to smell and photograph the spectacular local wildflowers on the way.

We work a six day week at Pella, and on Friday (the Jordanian 'weekend') we rest. But for those of you who didn't come to Pella to lounge about, we arrange Friday trips to some of the many attractions in the area. One of the members of the archaeological staff will accompany you on these excursions to act as your guide. We find this experience often helps people 'acclimatise' to the Middle East, and is invaluable for preparing people for further touring once the dig is over. The latter is certainly worth doing for those who can take the extra time, as Jordan has an extremely rich archaeological heritage, and a vibrant local culture that will both surprise and delight you. Be amazed at the rose-red monuments of Petra, take a walk back in time down the Roman roads at Jerash, or follow in the footsteps of Lawrence down Wadi Rum, en-route to storming the shops and beaches of Aqaba. From the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, desert to hot springs, and castle to rock-cut tombs, Jordan has something to offer everyone.