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Subsidy for digitalisation of Tell Deir Alla fieldwork

The Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) accepted the request for subsidy to digitise the archive of the archaeological fieldwork at Tell Deir Alla in the eastern Jordan Valley. The subsidy comes from its KDP-program (Small Data Project) and is meant to promote digitisation of important datasets. In this case it concerns documentation of fifty years of archaeological research in Jordan from 1960 through 2009.

First Dutch excavation project in West Asia

There are good reasons to digitise this Deir Alla archive in Leiden. Starting in 1960 this was the first Dutch excavation project in West Asia. Its restart in 1976 was the first foreign-local joint project in Jordan. The archives have an international value regarding the sequence of archaeological periods studied, intrinsically and because of their relevance for historical studies, including biblical ones, in this complex region.

Three subprojects

The project and its archive consist of three sub-projects:

  1. 1960-1967, five excavation seasons.
    Headed by Franken and financed by ZWO (now NWO) the focus was on the Late-Bronze to Iron Age transition around 1200 BC, a highly challenging timeframe in that region. Franken pioneered also in pottery studies that developed into the department of Pottery Technology in Leiden. The excavations became especially famous by the Late-Bronze Age temple and the Iron Age “Balaam Texts”.
  2. 1976-2009, twelve excavation seasons.
    As a joint project of Leiden University, the Department of Antiquities and Yarmouk University in Jordan, fieldwork was jointly financed and executed, with co-directors from Leiden and Jordan. The large scale detailed excavations gave the site a chronological and cultural authority for the Middle- and Late-Bronze Age and Iron Age.
  3. excavation of nearby Tell Hammeh in 1996-2009, with its very early iron production.

Fieldwork documentation

The archive consists of fieldwork documentation. The paper documents are day-reports, locus-sheets, field-drawings, field-reports, and also general reports, lists of objects and samples, object drawings, etc. The photographic documents concern black/white negatives including large size and glass-plate ones, with prints of them, and also colour-slides.

A large number of preliminary reports have been published and also several final reports. Still some primary research is taking place in Leiden, Irbid-Jordan and elsewhere. However research will continue, internationally, also to challenge earlier interpretations. For this the digital archive becomes essential.

Gerrit van der Kooij is leading the digitisation process. The digitisation, application of metadata according to DANS-directives, and the deposition at DANS all take place in 2018.

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