There are many things I love about visiting archeological sites in Jordan; the quality, the quantity, the variety. But most of all, I love the fact that you have the opportunity to go right in among the ruins and look, touch, and try to figure things out for yourself. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can start your own private dig, but very few places are out of bounds. And while useful information is provided at most sites, there is so much more that you can try to figure out for yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I love visiting important sites in Europe, but the reality is that the most you can do is look at them from a distance, safely behind the ropes and barricades. It is almost like watching a movie about it. On the other hand, when in Jordan, you can actually be there, and fully experience it with all your senses.
Let me illustrate with an example. I’ve often noticed strange black basalt shapes among the ruins, about the size and shape of a tire rim. With a bit of research, we figured out that these were part of a flour grinder, and we could see roughly how the pieces fit together. More or less. Then yesterday, while wandering around the Roman fort in Um er-Rasas, we came across a complete specimen. It was sitting beside a wall in the fort, with nothing to indicate its significance. No sign, no explanation, nothing. If we had not already been investigating, we wouldn’t have known what it was. But as soon as we spotted it, everything came together, and we understood exactly how they made flour. We could touch it, feel how the pieces fit together, see where the grain was poured in, and where the flour came out. I know that I am probably sounding like a total geek, but it completely made our day. Here is a picture that hopefully gives you an idea of how it works.