Abstract: Petra: An Urban Oasis in the Arabian Desert


During the 1st century BCE, a small settlement of Arab pastoralists located in a remote valley on the edge of the Arabian Desert, was transformed into one of the great ceremonial and economic centers of the ancient Near East. Petra was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom and hub of the caravan routes that supplied the Mediterranean World with incense and exotic goods. Known for the many magnificent rock-cut tombs and temple facades etched into the encircling rose red sandstone cliffs, Petra’s true wonder may be the infrastructure that allowed this desert metropolis to flourish. Masters of hydraulics, Nabataean engineers constructed a network of channels, dams, cisterns and tunnels to transport and store water for practical uses as well as recreation and ornamental display. This presentation explores technological achievements of the Nabataeans and some of the recent discoveries that reveal Petra’s splendor.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Crossing Jordan: North American Contributions to the Archaeology of Jordan. Eds. T.E. Levy, P.M.M. Daviau, R. Younker and M. Shaer.  London: Equinox, 2007.  This volume celebrates research carried out by North American archaeologists in Jordan over the last century and includes a series of articles on Petra and the Nabataeans.

Journals with recent volumes devoted to Petra:

Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental ResearchVol. 324 (2001)

NearEastern Archaeology, Vol. 65 (2002)

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