At the invitation of the U.S. Embassy, American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) Director Barbara Porter participated on 9 June 2015 in the closing ceremony for the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) grant for a project at Umm al Jimal in northern Jordan, just south of the Syrian border. The site encompasses a prosperous Byzantine town with many 5th and 6th century houses and churches built out of the local black basalt. The AFCP-funded project focused on the restoration of two adjacent large Byzantine houses (Houses XVII and XVIII).
Ambassador Alice G. Wells and Public Affairs Officer Ragini Gupta were shown around the site by Professor Bert de Vries of Calvin College, the director of the Umm al Jimal project and former ACOR
Director (1988–1991). Also present were project team members and Department of Antiquities’ staff, as well as individuals from the host community, including Mayor Hassan F. Al-Rahibh. In the official Embassy press release Ambassador Wells is quoted as saying, “From what I’ve seen today, Umm al Jimal has the potential to drive tourist traffic to this area and enrich the livelihoods of this community. We hope the promise of this wonderful site is realized.”
Part of the recent activity at Umm el-Jimal is being supported by USAID SCHEP (Sustainable Cultural Heritage through Engagement of Local Communities Project) awarded to ACOR. SCHEP aims to assist host communities in preserving and promoting the cultural heritage resources in their midst.
For extensive information on the site, see www.ummeljimal.org
Photo 1: Ambassador Wells (left) discussing with Bert de Vries new signage at Umm al Jimal with Ragini Gupta and Mayor Hassan looking on. Photo Credit: Barbara A. Porter.
Photo 2: Professor Bert de Vries (right) talks to Jehad Haroun of the Department of Antiquities and Ragini Gupta, the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer, just before the ambassadorial site visit. In the background Jeff De Kock and Paul Christians of Open Hand Studios. Photo Credit: Barbara A. Porter