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Umm Al-Jimal Ancient Site to be Documented

image of Umm Al-Jimal

For the past half century—52 years to be exact—the Calvin University community, led for many of those years by the late Bert de Vries, has been discovering the beauty of Umm Al-Jimal, an ancient site and modern community in the country of Jordan. The Calvin team has worked closely with the local people and municipalities to map, maintain, and make the ruins at Umm Al-Jimal more accessible.

From Calvin University by Matt Kucinski.

Dream job

Rohl first encountered de Vries and the ruins while a student at another university back in the early 2000s. He remembers telling his wife he wanted to dig at Umm Al-Jimal someday. He remembers being inspired by de Vries and enamored by the beauty of the ruins.

“Ruins are amazing because ruins show us enough of what it used to be like,” said Rohl. “They are reflections of a perfect whole that once existed.”

Digging deeper

Two decades after Rohl initially visited the site, he has the opportunity to do something never done there before. Through a Fulbright scholarship, beginning in September 2024, he will spend 10 months doing 3-D laser scanning of the nearly 200 ancient structures at Umm Al-Jimal. This will create the most precise and accurate three-dimensional understanding of the ancient ruins as they currently exist.

Rohl says the scanning will allow him to get down to 15-millimeter resolution, whereas most of the current archaeological drawings aren’t even at the 1-meter resolution in terms of accuracy.

“This is going to allow us to have a really fine-tuned understanding of each structure,” said Rohl.

Creating opportunities, preserving history

Rohl sees this creating great opportunity not only for students at Calvin, but also for students of history at all grade levels, all over the world.

“Rather than showing students still photos, drawings, or videos of the site, we can actually stand in the middle of the structure and walk through rooms. We can rotate and look up at the ceiling,” said Rohl. “It’s the closest thing to physically being here without physically being here.”

He sees this also as a great benefit to researchers, like himself, who will have access to sub centimeter accuracy of the current condition of structures that date back 2,000 years in some cases.

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