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University of Missouri

A Monumental Discovery

MU students unearth history at an archaeological site in Jordan.

Map of Jordan

MU students travel to Jordan this summer to dig at the ‘Ayn Gharandal excavation site.

When excavating an archaeological site, diggers can spend a lot of time pushing around sand. But in June 2013, University of Missouri students studying abroad in southern Jordan helped uncover an 800-pound inscribed stone that once marked the entrance to a late third-century Roman military outpost.

This rare discovery — scholars know of only four other epigraphic examples from this area and time period — confirms the name of the fort, the unit stationed there and the period in which the structure was built.

The ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project began in 2009 and is co-directed by Robert Darby, a doctoral candidate in the MU Department of Art History and Archaeology and visiting scholar at the University of Tennessee. This summer, MU students, led by Carrie Duncan, assistant professor of religious studies, will return to the site. Since Duncan came to MU in 2012, she has worked to promote studying abroad. “I want it to be [a question of] where are you going, not whether you’re going,” she says.

Conor Fagan, a senior history, archaeology and anthropology triple major from Riverside, Illinois, received one of the newly established study-abroad scholarships from the College of Arts and Science and will be traveling to Jordan this summer.

“I hope to eventually work abroad studying the connection between the late antiquity empires — Rome, for example — and the Arab population in the area,” Fagan says. “ ‘Ayn Gharandal is a place where we might be able to see that.”

They will record and preserve ancient Roman graffiti and drawings of camels and fish in the fort’s bathhouse. “We learned all sorts of official things in 2013 about the fort and the unit,” Duncan says. “These little doodles give us insight into the soldiers who were there and what their day-to-day life was like,” which helps students form a connection to the past and engage in history.