“Okay,” I told myself as I looked out over Area B of the Abila site for the first day of excavation. “It’s Indiana Jones time.”
The gray light of dawn was just coming, giving everything—the squares, the tells, and even the goats and sheep on the hill across the narrow valley—a hazy image. In the cool, crisp morning it was easy to imagine that I could actually do this; I could be a little bit like Indiana Jones, or Benjamin Gates from National Treasure, or even Alan Grant from the original Jurassic Park film. Just a little.
When I first heard about the Abila dig and saw pictures of the site during one of Dr. Vila’s talks at JBU, I was immediately fascinated. I’d wanted to be an archaeologist when I was little, and while I haven’t stuck with that dream, a little part of me was begging to go on the trip to have just a glimpse at what I might be missing. I knew that it wasn’t going to be anywhere close to the movies and books that made it sound like one big adventure, but it turns out that adventure takes on many forms.
Here’s the thing: after one day of digging, everyone except for the extremely passionate person will tell you that excavating is hard. But digging is only a small part of the experience. By the end of your first week, the dig experience can already leave a valuable impact.
The best part of the dig is often the comradery and friendships that develop between you, your square partners, and the Jordanian workers. There’s nothing like bonding over a work day filled with sweat and dirt! But in all seriousness, the work day is when crossing communication barriers becomes possible. Everyone is excited to work with each other right from the start—the Jordanians love to meet foreigners, and we love to learn more about them and their culture. Jokes quickly form, and the Jordanians often offer tea and invitations to come over to their houses for an evening. The cross-cultural friendships that develop both stretch and benefit you far more than any souvenir ever could.
The digging has its perks too. Every day you become more accustomed to the work and more attached to your square. The pride you feel each time a piece of unique pottery, glass, or bone is found in your area gives you a thrill and a second wind as “Eureka!” goes through your head.
So while we’re not exactly running through vine-dangling tunnels, evading giant rocks, or solving ancient puzzles to give us access to a treasure room, Abila definitely offers adventure if you’re intrepid enough to come!