Corpus of Nabataean Inscriptions

View of Petra
By [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Ancient nameRqmw
CoordinatesLatitude: 30° 19' 47"    Longitude: 35° 26' 29"    
Coordinates accuracycertain
General descriptionPetra is located on a plateau crossed by wadis. The urban area grow up along the Wadi Musa and on the rock faces internal to the plateau. The only access point to the ancient city is the Siq, a narrow passageway created by the bed of a wadi.
The city becomes as it currently is since the middle of the I cent. BC. The embankment supporting a colonnaded street is built along the Wadi Musa. The corresponding area is thus intended for public, civil use, no more for private buildings. At the end of the century it is monumentalized through an intensive building programme.
A huge civil and commercial area, including three squares, is set up on the southern bank of the Wadi Musa. The Great Temple is accessed by the "Lower market". It consists of a lower colonnaded courtyard and an upper court housing the temple on high podium, with a stagy effect. At the end of the street, a three-arched gateway leads to the sacred are of Qasr el-Bint.
The city is also provided with a Roman theatre.
Private houses are placed on the slopes of the surrounding hills, mixed with the monumental tombs. They are partly excavated in the rock and partly built of masonry. Often thay have several flores and are decorated with painted stucco.
ChronologyV-III cent. BC: Arab population settle down and mingle with local population
312 BC: Antigonus Monophthalmus leads two campaigns against the "Nabataeans"
106 AD: annexation to the Roman province of Arabia
220 AD: Petra obtains the status of "colonia"
VI cent. AD: Petra is metropolis of the Byzantine province Palaestina Salutaris
630 AD: Muslim conquest and gradual abandonment
Classical sourcesDiod. Sic. XIX, 94-100: Nabateans are devoted to pastoralism and trade; they live in the desert since they store water underground, they breed sheeps and camels, and trade frankincense and spices from Arabia Felix.
Strab. XVI, 4, 21: Petra is located in a smooth and pleasant location, but fortified by rocks all around; it is steep outside, but rich in springs and water for domestic use and watering the gardens; it is ruled by a king living lavishly and houses, built in stone, are extremely luxurious.
Identification1812: Johann Ludwig Burckhardt identifies the site of Petra (Travels in Syria and the Holy Land, London, 1822)
Travellers1818: Charles Leonard Irby and James Mangles (Irby C. L., and Mangles J., Travels in Egypt and Nubia, Syria and the Holy Land, London, 1823; Irby C. L., and Mangles J., Account of the Necropolis of Petra, a city in Palestine excavated from the solid rock, Edinburgh, 1828)
1826: Léon de Laborde (Voyage de l'Arabie Pétrée, 1830)
1836: rev. Edward Robinson (Biblical Researches in Palestine and adjacent Regions. A Journal of Travels in the Years 1838 and 1852, London 1856)
1836: David Roberts (The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, & Nubia, London, 1855-1856)
Archaeological missions1865: Plestine Exploration Fund
1870: American Palestine Exploration Society
1898: Aloīs Musil, Rudolf-Ernest Brünnow, Alfred von Domaszewski make the inventory of the rock façades (Die Provincia Arabia, voll. 3, Strassburg 1904-09); Gustaf Dalman studies the worship buildings (Petra und seine Felsheiligtümer, Leipzig, 1908)
1916-1917: Theodor Wiegand, Walter Bachmann and Karl Watzinger draft the first plan of the city and study the civil building (Petra. Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen des Deutsch-Türkischen Denkmalschutz-Kommandos, Berlin/Lepizig, 1921)
1929: George Horsfield and Agnes Conway lead the first excavation campaign (Historical and Topographical Notes on Edom: with an account of the first excavations at Petra, The Geographical Journal 76, pp. 369–390, 1930)
1954: excavation of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan at the Qasr al-Bint and along the colonnaded street (Peter J. Parr and Diana Kirkbride)
1961- : excavation by Philip G. Hammond at the theater, the Qasr al-Bint and the Temple of the Winged Lions
1978: Petra Tourism Development Project
2009: Brown University Petra Archaeological Project []


The temple is accesible through a colonnaded, uphill via sacra. It was entered through two narrow ways. The pronaos led to the squared cell. This was provided with platform for the cult idol and paved with marble. The internal walls also were covered by marble and stucco. They were decorated with half-columns, corresponding to those arranged along two rows in the cell. The platform had half-columns on three sides and free-standing columns on the fourth side. Their capitals were provided with the crouched lions that gave the name to the temple. Several rooms were placed nearby, including accommodation for the priests, workshops for the needs of the temple. The temple was probably built in the second quarter of the I cent. AD and was destroyed by fire in 110-114 AD. It was devoted to the divinity al-ʻUzza, but Allat and Atargatis have been also considered.

  • photoPetra, Temple of the Winged Lions
The temple is placed in a huge paved area, west of the colonnaded street. It is provided with: a high podium, accessible through a flight of stairs; a pronaos with four columns between the antae, closed to unauthorized persons; a wide cell; an adyton with a platform for the cult idol; two rooms at the sides of the adyton for the sacred symposium. The temple had a glabe roof. The architectural decoration of the temple included a doric frieze with triglyphs and metopes, the last ones with alternating busts of divinities and rosettes. The internal and external walls were entirely covered with stucco. The rear wall had a decoration in the form of a temple façade, provided with cupids holding garlands in the frieze. The paved area, surrounded by a temenos, included also a large altar and three platform for sacred ceremonies and ex-voto displaying. The temple was probably devoted to the cult of Dushara and ʻal-Uzza-Aphrodite. I was built under the rule of Oboda II (28-9 BC) and was abandoned in the VI cent. AD.

  • photoPetra, Qasr al-Bint
The Deir is placed at the top pf the Gebel ed-Deir. It is accessed through a stepped, sacred path carved into the rock. The façade is divided into two levels: the lower level includes six half-columns with pseudo-Ionic capitals, two lateral niches for statues and the central openings, with semi-circular and triangular tympanum respectively. The upper level is made by projecting and receding parts: a central tholos with conical roof, two aediculae with half pediments and the antae. A Doric frieze with rounds decorates the entablature of the upper level. The interior chamber includes: two lateral benches along the walls; a niches with a raised podium intended for a betyl into the back wall. Therefore the Deir is considered a worship building, probably entitled to the deified king Obodas I. It is also known as "Monastery" since it was used as Christian chapel in the Byzantine period.

  • photoPetra, Deir


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Nehmé and Villeneuve 1999Nehmé, Laïla and Villeneuve, François 1999. Pétra. Métropole de l’Arabie antique. Paris: Seuil.
Amadasi Guzzo and Equini Schneider 1997Amadasi Guzzo, Maria Giulia and Equini Schneider, Eugenia 1997. Petra. Milano: Electa.
McKenzie 1990McKenzie, Judith 1990. The architecture of Petra. (British Academy monographs in archaeology, 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press.