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ECU archeologist returns to jordan through research grants

(May 18, 2005)   —   ECU archeologist Megan Perry has spent the past few months combing burial sites in the Middle Eastern kingdom of Jordan.

Armed with a grant from the Joukowsky Family Foundation and an ECU Research grant, she will return to her work this summer, with four graduate students in tow.

Perry was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Joukowsky Family Foundation and $15,525 from ECU’s 2005 Research Development Grant, which will enable her to investigate two projects in the Petra and Wadi Ramm regions. Both sites have played important roles in trade and military control of ancient kingdoms.

The Petra project will build upon Perry’s earlier work with the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, Jordan. She has studied and analyzed burial sites in the past, but this project will enable her to map and survey visible ancient architecture at the Petra site.

“Petra is a new phase on an ongoing project,” she said.

At the request of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Perry will also conduct a geophysical survey in Wadi Ramm to identify a possible Nabataen cemetery associated with the ancient site.

“There seemed to be a way station there, a possible trade route to Saudi Arabia. There’s no city or village, but what seems to have happened was because it had a religious center, people may have buried their dead.”

The Wadi Ramm site is where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, Perry said, and its long history of being a rest stop yields artifacts from different eras.

“There are so many layers. It’s been occupied by people who camped here 50 years ago,” she said. “You can find a sardine can that’s 50 years old. You treat those like artifacts, too.

Perry studies the archeological history from the First Century, B.C., to the Sixth Century, A.D. Trained as a medical anthropologist, she is particularly interested in studying human remains in an effort to know more about the people and how they lived, and died, by surveying their remains.

“My ultimate goal is to find more human burials, to try to find out what their quality of life was like, their diet, and to see whether they suffered from diseases, and whether they were migrants or had lived in that area their whole lives,” she said.

In her work, Perry must, literally, dig through centuries of history to do her research. She uses modern research tools, like chemical analyses, sonar and aerial photography to help her in her work.

“Before I get to burial tombs at Petra, I have to dig through layers of Islamic occupation, houses from the Byzantine era, to get to the tombs below,” she said. “You cut into the bedrock and you usually know where to dig, you can see wall lines. I use ground penetrating radar and hopefully, we’ll look at the right place.”

Perry received a research grant that enabled her to spend the spring semester doing work in Petra. She will expand her work this summer, and enable four ECU anthropology graduate students, Joshua Fairchild, Robert “Budd” Patterson, Lisa Leone and Tina Greene, to assist her in site mapping and surveying.


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481