Local News

NCSU, ECU students turn up marble marvels on ancient Jordan dig

Posted September 26, 2016 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated September 27, 2016 11:24 a.m. EDT

— A surprise in the desert of Jordan is the find of a lifetime for some North Carolina State University and East Carolina University students and faculty.

A group of faculty and students from NCSU and ECU have been exploring the site in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan for years. During an archeological excavation from this summer, though, the team turned up something unexpected.

The team went to Petra looking for artifacts from everyday people, such as pottery. But they found something much bigger.

"The supervisor of the trench began to notice what looked like a human butt coming out of the ground," said NCSU history professor Tom Parker.

ECU anthropology professor Megan Perry was equally puzzled.

"I couldn't figure out what it was, because, as Tom said, it was a butt sticking out of the sand," Perry said.

The team had uncovered two marble statues of the mythological goddess Aphrodite. They were lying in the remains of what they believed was an ordinary home.

The statues probably date to the second century A.D. and represent a truly significant discovery.

"Marble statues (are) worthy of display in the Louvre or the British Museum or the Metropolitan," Parker said.

They aren't just pieces of art, though. The statues give us a glimpse into life almost 2,000 years ago.

"It was actually something that ancient people experienced and saw every day, not just this pretty object in the museum," Perry said.

The researchers believe an earthquake in 363 A.D. damaged the statues, and people dumped the broken pieces in an abandoned building.

Now, experts will examine and restore the pieces, then put them on display.

Adam Connell is an NCSU junior who helped on the dig. He says it's one thing to see statues like this in a museum, but another to be a part of the find.

"To see one that you were there when it actually came out of the ground, it's a really interesting experience to have, and I'm looking forward to seeing them on display," Connell said.

The statues will stay in Jordan and will eventually be on display in a new museum being built at Petra.