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Current student unearths cross-cultural continuities

30 Nov 2018
Valentina Grasso is one of our current students, undertaking a PhD on the history of late antique pre-Islamic Arabia. In her first year, she received two important awards (the AHRC Student Development Fund and the St Edmund’s College Santander Travel Award Fund) which allowed her to join the 2018 Field Season of the Tall Hisban (Jordan) Cultural Heritage Project. 
 
The Hisban Cultural Heritage Project, part of the wider Madaba Plan Project, is an international collaboration concerned with recovering, preserving, narrating and presenting to the public the multi-millennial story of cultural production and change at Tall Hisban and its surrounding hinterland. A major objective of on-going fieldwork at the site is to elucidate the story of global-local interaction as revealed, for example, in architectural elements and various small finds attesting to varying extents of local appropriation, and at times accommodation, of inter alia Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad cultural influences.
 
Valentina was assigned to the excavation of the Byzantine North Church of Hisban (pictured right), roughly dated to the fifth century. During the excavation, she and her team uncovered two strata of mosaics covering the church floor. Moreover, while looking for the church foundation wall, they found a Mamluk cemetery (ca. 200 pieces of bones), which proves the church was re-used after the Muslim conquests.
 
On the project, Valentina commented: "Thanks to the grant, I was also able to attend an intensive course of restoration at Petra (Jordan). In Petra, I helped restoring the Nabatean pool complex. Having wrote my MA dissertation on the Nabateans, this was an incredible opportunity for me."
 
At the end of the expedition, Valentina was also invited to join the 2019 Umm al-Jimal Project which will take place in May 2019. The site is extremely important for her research and she is hopefuly to acquire funding to be also part of this important excavation. If you're potentially interested in supporting Valentina embark on this project, please do not hesitate to contact development@st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk.