Petra Great Temple - Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Petra's Great Temple Summer 2000
by Elizabeth J. Himelfarb

Nabataeans | Photo Essay | Great Temple | Temple Plan | Who's Who | Virtual Petra | Surround Sound | Mystery Objects | Face Off | Star Spangled Banner | Bulletin Board | Map


Nineteenth-century watercolor of Al Khazneh, the treasury, by David Roberts

The Dead Sea clear and blue on my right, sandy peaks on my left, I wind my way through Jordan's rocky desert. There, for two weeks, I joined the group of Brown University archaeologists excavating the Great Temple of the ancient Nabataeans in the heart of the lost city of Petra. Rising with the sun, we stole the coolest hours of the day, working under makeshift tents, stopping once for breakfast of watermelon, eggs, and hummus and twice more for sugary, hot tea from a fire-blackened kettle. Ever-wary of scorpions, we inched our way closer to the past. The Bedouins, who do most of the digging while the archaeologists make careful notes, quickly became our friends. Many of them grew up in Petra's caves. They love this place and teach its secrets: the medicinal uses of herbs, the easiest route down a mountain, how to treat a scorpion bite. Together, we learned about the mysterious Nabataeans who were here before they were.

  Who were the Nabataeans?

  Petra: A Photo Essay

  The Great Temple
When was it built? What did it look like? Was it a great temple anyway?

  Temple Plan
Learn the lay of the Temple complex.

  Who's Who
Meet the archaeologists.

  Virtual Petra
Here, soar through the Great Temple, exploring every cranny as it may once have looked and examining artifacts in situ. This amazing virtual world was designed by graduate students at Brown.

  Surround Sound
Take in the sounds of Petra.

  Mystery Objects
What do you make of these confounding artifacts?

  Face Off
These stone-carved figures have lost face. Who were they?

  Star Spangled Banner under a Star-Strewn Sky
The traditional American Independence Day picnic with a Bedouin twist

  Bulletin Board
See questions, interpretations, and discussions on the discoveries. (Closed to new postings.)

  Map of Jordan

Visit the Brown excavation of the Great Temple online at

To purchase Petra: Great Temple--the thick, heavily illustrated volume chronicling the history of the Great Temple, its rediscovery, and the ongoing attempt to understand it--or the accompanying CD full of images and data bases, write to:
Petra Great Temple Excavations Brown University, Box 1921 Providence, RI 02912

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© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America