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Reports of the Expedition to the Dead Sea Plain, Jordan, vol. 1, Bab edh-Dhra: Excavation in the Century Directed by Paul W. Lapp, 1965-67.

To begin with a personal note, I first met Paul Lapp in the summer of 1965 during my first visit to Jerusalem. He and his wife, Nancy, were gracious hosts to our travel group, introducing us to the American Schools' facility on Saladin Street which we now know as the Albright Institute. His untimely death in the tides of Cyprus a few years later shocked all who knew him and left his work undone. The volume under review is the result of the worthy effort of the authors and their associates to complete in part the work of Paul Lapp at the site. Had Lapp had the opportunity to choose who might publish the results of his 1965-67 excavations at Bab edh-Dhra, he could not have chosen better than Rast and Schaub. In the preface to the publication they acknowledge their debt to Lapp for introducing them to the site. They were destined to continue the work at the site, and now, whenever Bab edh-Dhra is mentioned, the name of Walter Rast and Thomas Schaub come to mind rather than the name of Paul Lapp; nevertheless, they freely acknowledge that they have built on Lapp's foundations.

Anyone in the field realizes that the publication of a final report of one's own work is a demanding and time-consuming task. Rast and Schaub have competently accomplished the even more demanding task of publishing another's work. In slightly over six hundred pages they have summarized the discovery of the site; discussed and illustrated the tombs of EB I, II, III, and IV; surveyed the human skeletal remains and associated grave goods; and provided conclusions that indicate the historical and cultural significance of the Bab edh-Dhra cemetery. A bibliography and four appendices complete the work. An innovation is the provision of three microfiches containing ninety-seven figures in an envelope affixed to the inside back cover, a publishing technique no doubt intended to reduce the number of printed pages in the volume, but an inconvenience to anyone wishing to examine the illustrations sans a microfiche reader.

What have Rast and Schaub wrought? First, they have provided a succinct history of the exploration of the region and the site. What is clear is that, despite the fact that the southeastern Dead Sea plain is off the beaten track, it had been noted by ancient authors such as Diodorus, Strabo, Josephus, and Tacitus and visited sporadically by Western explorers from the Middle Ages to the present. Archaeological investigation began with the W. F. Albright and M. G. Kyle visit in 1924 and was followed by the Lapp excavations in 1965-67, with the Rast and Schaub expedition bringing us to our present state of knowledge about the region.

Second, Rast and Schaub describe and map the vast cemetery. In the process they have sorted out the stratigraphy and phasing of the tombs. Three early phases of burials at the site were in EB IA shaft tombs. The presence of basalt objects and maceheads in these tombs indicate continuity with Chalcolithic traditions, while the mainly disarticulated burials likely relate the burials to nomads. EB IB exhibited burials in both shaft tombs and in the earliest charnel houses constructed of mudbrick. (Rast and Schaub's later excavations at the occupational site indicate the beginnings of village life parallel with the EB IB burials.) The large number of burials in charnel houses resulted in a disarticulated mix. Complicating the analysis of the materials further were the effects of water seepage and erosion which also undermined the mudbrick structures. Charnel houses provided a primary means of burial in EB II and III, while EB IV was marked by burials in tombs. A number of burned charnel houses in the latest phase of EB III suggest the activities of a hostile group. This correlates with evidence for the destruction of the EB III city of Bab edh-Dhra discovered in the more recent excavations of Rast and Schaub. The subsequent EB IV tomb materials correlate with the evidence of an open village settlement identified in the more recent excavations. Burials in shaft tombs along with pottery types distinct from the preceding EB III period suggest the intrusion of a different population group rather than continuity with the former group.

Third, this publication provides a sophisticated analysis of EB pottery, which will likely serve as the primary treatment for reference by all future excavations and a resource for correcting previously published EB materials. To a lesser degree, the treatment of skeletal, particularly cranial, materials; small objects; and perishable organic materials provide important comparisons for interpreting future discoveries in EB contexts.

The publication of all the results of Lapp's seasons at Bab edh-Dhra in this volume would seem the logical thing to do; however, Rast and Schaub have chosen not to include the results of the 1965 fall campaign, which explored the ruins of the site rather than the cemetery, in this volume. The results of that campaign will be incorporated in a future volume and integrated into the results of the Rast and Schaub excavations.

In conclusion, this first volume of reports on the expedition to the Dead Sea Plain project brings together a vast amount of information on burial practices in Canaan in the Early Bronze Age. Meticulously prepared and clearly presented, this volume will function as a valuable comparative resource for current and future archaeologists working in Early Bronze Age materials.
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Author:Schoville, Keith N.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:897
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