The Year of Living Dangerously

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Dr. Linda K. Jacobs is an archaeologist, author, and founder of the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, which is dedicated to improving the lives of people in developing countries in the Middle East and to fostering greater understanding of Middle Eastern culture in the United States. She has been a great friend and supporter through the years, and she writes below about her memories living at (and working with) ACOR. 

I trained as an Iranian archaeologist and was digging at the site of Malyan in the south of Iran when the Iranian revolution was reaching its conclusion. We left in the fall of 1978. Unable to return, I was casting around for a new archaeological home when I was invited to Jordan to work with David McCreery on a short consultancy with the Department of Antiquities. I had just finished my PhD. Those few months gave me the idea to go back to Jordan for a post-doctoral year and conduct a survey of the Wadi Isal in the south of the country. The project was approved by NEH and I moved to Jordan in the fall of 1981. Instead of living at ACOR, I rented half a house in the village of Fuheis and went back and forth to Amman nearly every day, either to attend Arabic class at the University of Jordan or to participate in events and hang out at ACOR (then located at Fifth Circle). It was great to get to know the many international teams that would come in for their season.

Fifth Circle ACOR. Photo by Bert de Vries.

The year was full of adventures. The survey was one: we spent weeks walking the hills and wadis of the southern part of the country with nothing but a compass to guide us (there

David McCreery and group visiting Ebla. Photo by Linda Jacobs.

were a half dozen people working with me). Every evening, we returned to the Arab Potash Company’s housing complex near Aqaba. I ran a UNESCO-sponsored dig in the North

Theater in Jerash, commuting every day from Fuheis. The crew were teenage boys from the nearby Palestinian camp; we worked through a very hot Ramadan month and they

were able to keep a sense of humor. I spent every Friday exploring the archaeological sites of the country. I went to Syria three times. David McCreery, then ACOR Director, organized an extended archaeological tour to Syria for a group of ACOR-affiliated scholars in the spring of 1982. There were three cars—a long-bed Land Rover and two Toyota Land Cruisers–so perhaps about twelve of us in all.

The sites are seared into my memory, not just because of their beauty, but because of the arduous and exciting effort to reach each one. They were for the most part deserted, so it was just us. Even Palmyra was nearly empty. We visited Ebla and I remember Paolo Matthiae describing the site as a “bowl of hummus,” that is, a shallow hill with a depression in the center. Qasr el Khayr el Sharqi at sunset. And Raqqa…

Palmyra, nearly empty. Photo by Linda Jacobs.

The most frightening memory was coming down from a particularly obscure site in the mountains overlooking the rift valley. The road was a series of switchback turns with nothing protecting us from a drop of thousands of feet. The long-bed Land Rover was too long to make those turns, so each one had to be negotiated by inching forward, reversing uphill, using the hand brake and the foot break and praying we didn’t go over the edge. David was the hero, making all of us get out of the car in case it went over and doing the terrifying maneuvering by himself. But of course he made it.

Land Rovers on a field trip in Syria. Photo by Linda Jacobs.

When I returned to the U.S. I started working for Gough Thompson, who was Chair of the ACOR Board and an investment banker. He seconded me to ACOR one day a week and asked me to help David McCreery raise money for a new building in Amman. The first gift, and the most memorable, was a $50,000 check sent in response to a letter signed by HRH Raad bin Zeid, who has been a staunch supporter of ACOR for decades. And we built the building you’re in now.

Laying ACOR’s Foundation. Photo by David McCreery.

We thank our many supporters for making it possible to construct a purpose-built research center, library and laboratory here in Amman. Gifts from researchers like Linda Jacobs, Prince Raad bin Zeid, and countless others have shaped us into the research destination we are today.

All images are from ACOR’s Photo Archive, a fantastic resource that you should explore at:  https://photoarchive.acorjordan.org/ 

This blog was written by Linda K. Jacobs, whose image and most recent publication are both shown below. 

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