Petra's Great Temple: The Nabataeans - Archaeology Magazine Archive

Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
interactive digs
Who Were the Nabataeans? "Petra's Great Temple"
Summer 2000


The Assyrian-style step motif decorating the tomb furthest to the right was a favorite of the Nabataeans. (Elizabeth Himelfarb)

Bedouin merchants who found great success in the trade of silks, spices, medicines, and asphalt, the Nabataeans made Petra their capital around the second century B.C. They settled there, mastering the desert's most precious resource--water--with an ingenious system of canals and cisterns, and hewed magnificent temples and tombs from the towering sandstone cliffs.

    Petra's architecture is a hodge-podge of Assyrian, Egyptian, and Greek influences. Most of the free-standing structures that once stood beside the rock-cut wonders have toppled, but one such building, the Great Temple, situated to the south of Petra's colonnaded street, is being pieced together by Martha S. Joukowsky and her Brown University team. Little is known about the religious beliefs and rituals of the Nabataeans, whose pantheon included the male deity Dushara, the female fertility goddess Al-'Uzza, and perhaps some Hellenistic and Egyptian gods as well.

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

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America