New Museum in Jordan Planned by Gannon Archaeologist

Posted: January 24, 2017

For 35 years, Gannon University professor Suzanne Richard, Ph.D. has been working in the Jordanian desert to uncover buildings that are five millennia old. This year, she began a project to create a new building, a regional archaeological museum in the city of Madaba, a major tourist center and university town located 35 miles south of the capital city of Amman.

The goal of the Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum Project is to engage local stakeholders to protect, preserve and display artifacts from 1,700 years of Madaba's rich history.

Richard who directs the Collins Institute for Archaeological Research and the Archaeology Museum Gallery at Gannon, and her colleague, Marta D'Andrea of Sapienza University of Rome, hatched the idea two years ago. "Having been on the Madaba museum committee for years (without any success)," Richard said, "I immediately thought of trying again to either renovate the very old museum or attempt to find a new location."

That location is the Madaba Archaeological Park West, where the new museum will incorporate restored buildings from the four-century-long Ottoman era. The adjacent Roman Road, and the Burnt Palace and Martyrs Church, with their late Byzantine mosaics, will be showcased on the museum's first floor, while the upper floors will house exhibits of materials excavated from the various archaeological sites in the region around Madaba.

One of those projects is the excavation at Khirbat Iskandar, an Early Bronze Age (ca. 3500 - 2000 BCE) site from the critical 1,500-hundred-year era that saw the rise and collapse of the first cities. Khirbat Iskandar is located on the famous caravan route, the King's Highway, east of the Dead Sea in the Plains of Moab. Since 1981, excavations here have revealed occupation spanning the entire Early Bronze Age, and it is widely considered to be the most significant site from the final period of that era. Richard has been the Principal Investigator (PI) since 1981; Jesse C. Long, Jr. from Lubbock Christian University and D'Andrea, from Sapienza University of Rome) serve as co-directors of the project.

Gannon University students have participated in the Khirbat Iskander dig, and it is Richard's hope that more opportunities for students will arise from the museum project and from Gannon's agreement for the exchange of faculty and students with the American University of Madaba. "I would like to perhaps set up my museum introductory class online to involve Gannon and Jordanian students, as well as to spend part of the course abroad for hands-on experiences," she said.

Richard has been a post-doctoral fellow in residence at American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, which was founded to promote knowledge of ancient and Middle Eastern studies with Jordan as a focus. Since leaving for her sabbatical in April, Richard has attended two international conferences, directed two digs and given public lectures, including one at the American University of Beirut. She spent November as an invited scholar in residence at Sapienza University of Rome where she gave several Ph.D. seminars and a number of public lectures. She also presented a lecture at the University of Florence in November.

Going forward, Richard, D'Andrea and their colleagues, Andrea Polcaro from the University of Perugia in Italy and Doug Clark of LaSierra University, will continue to build support for the museum project. "I wrote the Harris Grant [for the project] and have recently, along with Doug Clark, written another grant for a significant amount to cover work over the next two years," Richard said.

The American team just received word of an award of $117,000, and are preparing to submit a third proposal for a large grant to complete the restoration of the entire Madaba Archaeological Park West. "We will direct a second dig next May and oversee the consolidation and preservation of the Ottoman buildings; thereafter, we will direct the construction of the museum, setting up programs, training, workshops, courses in museum studies, etc., in order to ensure local management of the museum and the sustainability of the museum in future."

For more information on the excavations at Khirbat Iskander, click here.

For more information on the Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum Project, click here.

For more information on ACOR, click here.