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Computational archaeology in Petra

Recently I did a 2 week trip with a friend to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. During this trip we saw a lot of amazing archaeological sites, which will eventually feature on this blog. Today I want to focus on Petra, Jordan.

Petra is a UNESCO Heritage site in southern Jordan, which has made the list of the new 7 Wonders of the world. Previously known as Raqmu, Petra was a city built during the Nabataean Kingdom as a trading hub. Many of the structures in the city (including the tombs) have been carved into the face of the colourful rocks found in the area.


A photo of the Monastery from our tea drinking spot

I have previously mentioned the Zamani Project , which does 3D models of archaeological sites (mainly focusing on African sites). They have created 3D models of various buildings in the Petra complex, which can be found on their website. The models were done by performing a laser scanning survey, for which the documentation can be found here. The models available include:

  • The Treasury
  • The Urn
  • The Royal Tombs
  • The Byzantine Church

Videos can also be found on Youtube, such as:

There are also some articles and sites mentioning the use of satellite imaging:

You can also find a lot of information about the site on this website. The site includes information about each of the buildings, the events taking place as well as a live stream of the site (which I find a bit creepy considering that I never saw a sign at the place stating that you are being broadcasted to the world). The buildings and natural sites described include:

  • Bab al Siq – en route to the george, this area includes a variety of tombs and monuments.
  • The Dam – a Nabataean dam
  • The Siq – a george which was used as the main entrance to the city
  • The Treasury / Al Khazna – the most well known building in Petra (thanks to Indiana Jones movies). The actual function of the building is a mystery (ranging between temple, document storage, etc), but it was once believed to house a treasure, giving it the modern name of The Treasury.
  • The street of Facades – row of Nabataen tombs
  • The Theater – a Theater built by carving the rock into an amphitheatrical shape
  • The Urn Tomb, the Silk Tomb, the Corinthian Tom, the Palace Tomb, the
  • The Sextius Florentinus tomb – various tombs in the area
  • The Collonaded street – a street with columns later refurbished by the Romans
  • The Buildings, Pond and Gardens Complex – garden and pond
  • The Great Temple – The largest freestanding building in Petra
  • Winged Lion Temple – Discovered using sonar technology, this is a temple for the Nabataean goddess al-Uzza
  • Byzantine Church – The remains of the Byzantine occupation in the area, with well preserved mosaics
  • The Temple of Qasr Al-Bint – A first century BC temple
  • High Place of Sacrifice – A venue for religious ceremonies
  • The Farsa Valley – A lion carved on a rock face
  • The Garden Temple – Likely an old Nabataean water system
  • The Tomb of the Roman Soldier and Funeral Ballroom, the Renaissance Tomb – more tombs around the area
  • The Monastery – used for religious meetings and later used as a Christian chapel. People described it as a difficult hike, a sort of death trap. It really was not a difficult hike, so don’t miss it because of rumours! It is beautiful.



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