[by Agnes Conway and George Horsfield]
Dr. Nielsen spent the day working at the Sanctuaries on El Habis, and felt that he had discovered enough in one morning to justify his journey. This complex of cult monuments, all orientated to the west, seem to him to be the earliest Arabian sanctuaries, circa the 2nd millennium B.C. He thinks that the bulls heads on the so-called “pulpit” and the cone shaped top, somewhat resembling a coil, of snakes, are of human workmanship, though much weathered. (He turned this down afterwards). A.E.C. spent the morning and afternoon exploring the Wady El Tughra. Below El Habis, S of the sanctuaries, she found what might almost be called a cemetery of shaft graves, some leading into large tomb chambers below. All were of solid construction and considerable depth, but the roofs in all cases had gone and the contents were rifled. One shaft grave had 3 small detached obelisks near it, and the holes for the bases stood at the head of the grave 1. The graves on the opposite side of the Wady under El Bijara are much later. Two sumptuous Nabataean temple graves have later partition walls of large stones, regularly built (prob. Bedouin?). One large tomb with a niche for a single grave has only a small hole knocked out of the slab and might be worth exploring for its contents.
Following the Wady southwards a large irregular lump of sandstone in the middle (the Kegelberg) is also a collection of shaft graves, and further on on the western side are a few shaft graves in front of some of the largest Hellenistic tombs. The green plateau between the Wady and the W. face of El Biijara is a mass of large worked stones, probably Greco-Roman and looked to her like remains of the town.
Where the Wady en Mer runs into the Wady el Tughra are a few rock-hewn caves, almost entirely silted up with sand, which might be worth excavation.
G. H. started digging in mound S.W. Zubb Pharoon [sic], on the part that lies above Dalmans [sic] “Byzantine” Wall. It is covered with Byzantine pottery but the steps cut in the side of the mound produced very little. The mound in this part is composed of sand and a certain amount of burnt debris, probably from wood fires, but contained no charcoal. The sand is loose and the digging had to be done with caution for fear of a land slide.
In the afternoon moved further South, where the debris is deep, and higher up the mound, which is apparently surmounted by a fortified wall which is not shown in Dalman’s plan. It breaks out from the Byzantine wall then turns until it meets the rock, with a shaft tomb. Below this lies another with slabs in place, one being broken so that you can peer in. It is partially filled with debris, and seems to have a chamber on either side.
The pottery finds were poor, but a deep cutting may be interesting. The evidence so far obtained points to the wall being pre-Byzantine, as it is buried in debris of this period.
Today the Camp was finished. It is situated in the Wadi Deir, in caves on both sides. In the West is the cookhouse, Living Room, W.C. and stables, and beyond a Bathroom. Dr Nielsen and Miss Conway are accommodated in tents. On the East is the Guardroom, which is also used as a Store House; adjoining is a small cave for G.H. and next door is the Guest Room. It is fairly compact, and the guard room covers all points of approach.
Many deficiencies have been discovered in the equipment, which was reduced as much as possible. These are being taken in hand, and Thos. Cook and Son’s camp, in the person of the Manager, has been most helpful. It is impossible to buy anything at Elgi, except the poorest things. No vegetables are obtainable. Milk is procurable. Chickens and sheep have to be got from the Arabs some miles away. Arrangements are beginning to work, so that all the attention of the Expedition may be given to the work of exploration.
[Footnote]: 1. These are probably not holes for obelisks, but the ordinary ones for offerings. Mr Horsfield excavated these shaft graves later on.
Reference: [unsigned, but by Agnes Conway and George Horsfield] 1929 (transcribed by A. Thornton). Petra Exploration Fund Diary. "Business Papers to be Kept", Horsfield Collection Box 8, UCL Institute of Archaeology, 26 March: 6-9.
[By George Horsfield and probably Agnes Conway]
Visited dig which has progressed fairly and was within 6 m. of Byzantine wall; then went to Upper Farasa Wadi to see Tomb excavations; three were done; all had been cleared out. They are simple shaft tombs with stone slabs resting on ledges immediately over corpse – shaft about one metre deep. This was filled with earth, which had the appearance of never having been disturbed. The stone slaps in one case remained in part in position. Returned to dig which had arrived at wall about 5 ½ m in front of Byzantine wall. On the left was a cistern; broken down on the right, a shapeless mass of stones and earth – which had the appearance of being a foundation; dissected it but was unable to form an opinion as to what it was used for. Immediately in front of wall struck rock, on which foundation of wall rests – which may be a bastion projecting from main wall; it is built of small stones in courses – which seem to be reused material. There are seams of ashes, but very little pottery, which is very mixed; an inscribed jar handle – a sherd of glazed black pottery; a Christian Byzantine lamp, a fragment of a round figured lamp and a piece of glass. Arriving at the rock so soon was surprising as I thought that I was getting in to the “tell” and was expecting to arrive on the foundations of the part of the city lying between the two walls. These have apparently been cleared away or never existed. It is necessary in order to make sure and satisfy scientific curiosity to probe further; but the expectation of finding the town stratifications is gone – at this point.
Visited with Miss C. el Maisera el Garbiyah and saw a quantity of Tombs, one of which, “Hadrianic”1, retained remains of external plaster on its cornice and suggestions of blue and red colour. This is the only Tomb so far found that retains any part of its external plastering, though it has been suspected in many other cases. Miss C. has pointed out three Tombs which she wants to dig out. They are filled with sand and are without any external distinction [? In pencil] – so may fulfil our expectation of being ancient and undisturbed – or at any rate may illustrate something of the Nabataean civilization – of which so far not a trace has been found except on coins. The Mediterranean seems the source of inspiration – Syria supplied the tools, Dabourha [? In pencil] and Dik – which seem to have been used by the stone cutters who carved out some of the Tombs. The Hadrianic Tombs are cut with a pick, which is used with a swinging circular stroke and produces a fine even cutting – the other is more careless and rough. The dating of all these is very difficult, but none seem to have a remote antiquity, as even some of the least classical and flattest in execution have pedimented doors; others have architraves, or small cornice; some of the architraves even develop ears at the top. So it would appear that the flat type with strings and very small stepped gables – sometimes with ornamented portals, were just as liable to be produced as well as the developed classical type. In the same way archaeologists will be mystified to find in English churches “15thcentury monuments” and early Victorian all stuck on the same wall, possibly executed by the same hand. The pick strokes do indicate that there was a difference[, in pencil] in time in some cases – but all cases may be found in contradiction [? In pencil] – so that a conclusion from this method of analysis is liable to error. The only means of correct dating is by digging.
A. E. C. spent the morning examining the monuments on the East, opposite the theatre. The lower two tiers all appear to be houses, and one is large, with 7 rooms and a large hall, and probably a cistern underneath. The area seems originally to have been a tomb area, and several shaft graves remain at that level. When the theatre was made the houses may have been built too, as they all seem late and of excellent workmanship. The upper tiers are graves, with the doubtful exception of Br 812, which is a triclinium with a house façade, into which three large grave niches may have been inserted at the time the large neighbouring tomb was built. Brunnow has paid no attention whatever to the house levels.
Behind these houses on the top terrace is a row of silted up graves; but these are more likely to have been rifled than those in the Wady Ma’aisera el Gharbiyah. Dr Nielsen and Dr Canaan spent the day at Elji, where they found a new (?) Nabataean inscription and saw several classical fragments built into the village houses.
[Footnote] 1. Like Madain Salih Tomb, 8 A.D.
Reference: Horsfield, G. [and probably Conway, A.] 1929 (transcribed by A. Thornton). Petra Exploration Fund Diary. "Business Papers to be Kept", Horsfield Collection Box 8, UCL Institute of Archaeology, 16 April, Part 2: 37-40.
[by George Horsfield and possibly Agnes Conway]
No. 2 cave continues being cleared in the inner room which has gone more rapidly. No. 3. is cleared except for the floor – a bench of stone about 80 cents. wide existed on right side apparently running the whole length. There is a channel in rear wall to fix it in. The niche at back proves to be only 45 cents deep – purpose unknown. No more pottery.
Began to dig two shaft tombs on Ma’aisera plateau – one was entered from a hole on a corner without touching shaft – Byzantine pottery fragments and nothing else so far. This No. 2. The other shaft No. 1. was filled to the brim with earth. This being cleared to 1 metre disclosed side chamber. On entering found about 10 skulls in disorder on the floor, a mass of bones – 2 pots in a corner – another near a corpse on right side and a Byzantine pot. A lot of pots came out of the shaft – including base of Rabbit Thyton with stone metal eyes – the head of a female with a hook nose – an open mouth and a crescent moon bound on her forehead. Small pots, lamps etc.
A.E.C. climbed El Biyara in the morning, passing a terrace with 3 Dushara niches (given by Dalman as a sanctuary) and then going by two great inclined planes in the rock like the entrance to El Hubta. Above these, right out in the open, is a charming country house of two rooms and a terrace, with a superb view. Steps go all the way to the top, which is a long flat plateau with remains of squared stone ruins all over it, flat with the ground. I could not date them at all. The surface pottery is Byzantine, Greco-Roman, and some very rough stuff, possibly bronze age? There are six enormous cisterns; large round openings in the ground, going down deep and with stones, in some cases squared, that have fallen in from the top. Near the Arabah side of the hill and close up against another hill for shelter, is a rounded topped cave with an early plain door; date unknown. The whole hill was evidently a fastness [sic], and commands the whole country; the views are superb. The easy route from Elji to El Barid is clearly visible and the spur from it that would lead to the Edomite High Place – the first ridge of El Ma’aisera is seen absolutely crammed with buildings, the other ridges by contrast, looking quite empty. A big quarried valley seemed to lead N out of the Siyagh; the last course of the Wady Musa, through black spiky rocks, looked magnificent.
Reference: Horsfield, G. [and possibly Conway, A.] 1929 (transcribed by A. Thornton). Petra Exploration Fund Diary. "Business Papers to be Kept", Horsfield Collection Box 8, UCL Institute of Archaeology, 23 April: 52-53.