Digging season at Petra cancelled, but Bedal hopeful for the future

The mysteries of Petra are still being uncovered by professionals and students alike
The mysteries of Petra are still being uncovered by professionals and students alike | Contributed photo
Penn State Behrend anthropology associate professor Leigh-Ann Bedal has headed up efforts to continue discovering new treasures and cultural revelations at Petra in Jordan throughout her collegiate and professional life.

While the temple long fascinated archaeologists in the desert region, Bedal has spent a great deal of time at the "Lower Market." It is a showy example of the Nabataean ability to channel, pressurize, purify and pot water, a garden terrace.

The only known Nabataean garden is now the site of the Petra Garden Field School, which is headed by Bedal and has become a joint venture with the State University of New York’s College at Brockport. Over 50 students have taken part in the program and are able to work alongside academics and renowned archaeologists, learning techniques such as flotation. They dig in the trench, learn to record findings, and even wash pottery and other findings.

Students stay with a Bedoul family while in the program, which shows the cultural acceptance and welcome of these Jordanian people toward Americans. Bedal and others face the harsh desert conditions, with shifts starting at 6 a.m., avoiding the extreme heat in the afternoons. 

While the digging season for 2016 was cancelled due to reduced interest – likely caused by destruction of monuments in other prestigious archaeological sites – Bedal hopes to continue her program in 2017. 

"I regret not being there. We still have a lot of earth to clear," she said. “It’s quiet, and quite peaceful. You just hear the chink of the hand picks, and maybe the braying of a donkey. You can focus, and you lose yourself in the work."

Organizations in this story

Pennsylvania State Univ. Erie, the Behrend College

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