The Sheep Pass by

I was sorting unlabeled photographs this evening and came across a lost set. I shot them nearly ten years ago at the site of Tell Jalul, Jordan (immediately east of the town of Madaba). It was mid-summer, 2007. I remember the moment quite clearly.

The Awassi or "fat tailed" sheep have been regular residents of the Bible Lands for millennia.

It was late morning and getting pretty hot. The last hour of work can be that way. Our students and local help were slowing down. We were in need of a lift.

Our excavation fields (G and H) faced the south, and just beyond the tell, a two lane road meandered in from the airport and the desert beyond. The lift we were hoping for came from that direction.

We heard them before we saw them. A herd of sheep-goat approached. They numbered in the hundreds. Their feet against the stone made the sound of rain, a delicious irony for this part of the world in the month of June. 

The shepherd waves Marhaba! Tell Jalul's Field H is on the rise beyond.

Several of the students looked at me pleadingly. "Can we go down and take pictures?" 

I grabbed my camera. "Break!" I shouted. "Let's go!"

I was excited too.

We trotted downslope and met the herd as it passed under the tell. It moved like a living river in currents and rivulets. At first, the sheep poured toward us. Heads down, they pressed against our legs, then around us. Several young men (and older one) shepherded the mob. They picked up a one unlucky fellow and posed. They encouraged us to do the same. Our cameras clicked. The sheep cried. Everybody laughed.

Experiencing these photos reminded me of the smell of the animals, a decade after the fact. I'm guessing the herders might say the same thing if asked about the stench of the archaeologists!

Anyway, here's a couple of shots from the encounter. Enjoy. We did.

Maria is a sweetheart.

Efrain is a natural. He looks the part.

Sarah left her square but not her gloves.

Yours truly, with the cowboy thing going.