Miriam Saleh, Development Officer, reflects on ACOR’s past, present and future.
In 2018, ACOR will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Like many in Jordan, our research center relocated in 1968 to Amman in response to the Six-Day War. In a small flat, with a handful of books that one could scarcely call a library, archaeologists regrouped and started a new research center. Here, they found more than a safe space, they found a warm community and a sense of purpose.
From its inception, those at ACOR set about sharing knowledge of the ancient world with anyone who indicated interest. There was much to do, as Jordan is teeming with cultural heritage. This is one of the few places in the world where construction workers are about as likely to discover ancient sites as archaeologists. But discovery is not half as thrilling without context.
“For me, archaeology, before then was a dead science. I had no idea…this sense of discovery. It’s like if you discover oil. I never expected it! Once I was on a dig and I spotted something very small, and that could be something or it could be nothing. At the same time it could be a whole city at the ends of your fingertips.” HRH Prince Ra’ad speaking about attending digs with ACOR Director Jim Sauer in the 1970s
In addition to inviting community members to observe archaeological digs, attend pottery workshops, and hosting camping trips, ACOR’s founders wanted to advance academic research in Jordan. They began offering fellowships to young scholars to give others the opportunity to experience fieldwork and launch their academic careers.
“I was one of I think two, two or three, archaeology students, and for me, it was a dream come true to come over. I didn’t have the wherewithal to have ever gone on a dig myself, and that summer really changed my life and in many ways.” Dr. Tim Harrison, Former ACOR Fellow
Our research center is bustling. In the two-story library, Jordanian students quietly work alongside Americans in Arabic language programs. Pre- and post-doctoral students sift through over 40,000 volumes searching for the right publication to further their research. Dr. Gary Rollefson is once more sitting at an ACOR desk, analyzing Neolithic stone tools. Though the core of our work remains the same, we are changing. The range of subjects supported by ACOR fellowships has expanded. This September, ACOR-NEH fellow Dr. Geoff Hughes gave a lecture about the Facebook habits of sheikhs. Particularly in rural Jordan, social networks are used in innovative new ways. Our archaeological work has also taken a more modern approach.
In 2014 ACOR initiated the USAID-funded Sustainable Cultural Heritage Through Engagement of Local Communities Project (SCHEP). By 2018, ACOR expects to have created 650 community-based job opportunities around cultural heritage sites through SCHEP. We are working in Umm al Jimal, Ghawr as Safi, Busayra, Bir Madhkur, Petra, Wadi Ramm, Ayla, Madaba, Bayt Ra’s… many of the same places we have worked for years. Community involvement and inclusion in conservation efforts have increased organically as time passed. This project is a first attempt at providing year-round employment, designed to last after field seasons end.
“We started actual excavations in 1977. From then on we’ve been employing local people, which means that over these many years we are getting the grandchildren of some of our original workers. For example, right now, my field director Muafaq Hazza is the grandson of Abu Hazza who worked for us in 1977.” Dr. Bert de Vries talking about USAID SCHEP in Umm el Jimal.
Through vocational courses conducted at ACOR, SCHEP site stewards are able to attend workshops on restoration, tourism, and English as a second language. This year, through SCHEP we introduced a diploma course on “Archaeological Surveying” offered in partnership with the Hashemite University. Increasingly, Jordanians who live near these nine sites are taking leading roles in site management.
“TWL is different from any other job I’ve had. I really love going to work each day. I love what I do.” Eman Abdessalam, Project Team Leader at ACOR’s Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management Initiative speaking about USAID SCHEP’s work in Petra.
Heading into our 50th anniversary year, ACOR is truly at a crossroads. We stand for both academic research and cultural heritage management, for Jordan and the United States.
As technology advances, we hope to make our library even more useful to scholars. Our library has just begun an exciting new project to process, digitize, and make all of ACOR’s donated photographic holdings fully accessible (and searchable) online. From 1968 until today, Rami Khouri, Jane Taylor, and many other major photographers and archaeologists have contributed more than 100,000 images to ACOR. For decades these collections were carefully stored, but their fragility made them inaccessible to most of our library visitors.
Our new digital archive will allow researchers and others to easily access valuable images of threatened archaeological sites. The photographs capture gradual site transformations through time, and will provide scholars with unique perspectives on details of ancient ruins, landscape elements, local flora and fauna, and even the region’s human geography.
This is one of the many exciting projects ACOR will complete in the next 50 years. We don’t know which direction the future will lead us, but we know we will continue to work towards our mission to advance knowledge of Jordan past and present.
Help us create an online history of the last 50 years!
Over the course of our anniversary year, we’ll be hosting a special lecture series and creating an online archive of photographs and stories which encapsulate ACOR life. We’d love your contributions.
We have received a couple of submissions thus far, but we need more.
“I remember relaxed and informal gatherings over superb lunches cooked by Mohammed or over an Amstel or two. That atmosphere of informality chimed with me.” Story from Alison McQuitty, Director CBRL 1994–2000, Assistant/Acting Director/Director BIAAH 1986–91
If you have any photographs or stories that you want to share with the ACOR community and beyond, please send them to us using the address below: firstname.lastname@example.org
By submitting content we assume that you are granting your permission for ACOR to publicly use images and stories to celebrate ACOR’s 50th. Please specify if this is not the case. Materials will primarily be used for activities and blog content relating to ACOR’s 50th anniversary celebrations, but may also be used for communications, promotional, and fundraising purposes.
Celebrate with us, save these dates!
- Monday, June 25, 2018
We plan on hosting a formal gala on this evening. This will be the official premiere of our ACOR@50 film, and we will have special speeches from community members. Please email email@example.com for more information.
- Friday, November 16, 2018 at the ASOR Annual Meeting
For our American supporters, ACOR will host a November gathering during the annual ASOR meeting. During this celebration we will honor those who have made our work possible throughout the years.
- To be announced, Spring 2019.