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The "Lost City" of Petra

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posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 07:48 PM
Once considered the nexus of the Near East, Petra was an economic powerhouse located in the mountains of Jordan. This ancient city was ruled by the Nabateans, who harnessed the power of water in a desolate landscape and thrived to a population well over 20,000. As time went on trading routes changed, political agendas evolved, and this once vibrant city was lost to history. For nearly two thousand years, this ancient wonder of the world lay in ruins holding precious secrets. Archaeologist have uncovered new splendors, and magnificent objects, that would bring this once desert city back to life!

Al-Muheisen, who has been excavating in Petra since 1979 and specializes in the Nabataean period, says no one has yet found any archaeological evidence dating back to the fourth century B.C. The earliest findings thus far date back only to the second and first centuries B.C.

But more clues remain beneath the surface. "We have uncovered just 15 percent of the city," he says. "The vast majority—85 percent—is still underground and untouched."

Discovery of a Lifetime

In 1812, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt decided to take a job that would send him on a dangerous and rewarding journey. Under a disguise, he traveled to Cairo and came across information telling of an ancient ruins that was only a days travel away. Of course admitting to go see this place would raise susipicion of him not being an Arab, Burckhardt requested to make a sacrifice at the tomb of Haroun at the other end of the valley from these ruins.

As Burckhardt and his guide approached the ruins the rock walls along the path closed in to form a tiny, twisting canyon at some points only 15 feet wide and hundreds of feet deep. The caverns got so tight that darkness was all that was seen. Navigating the narrow pathway, Burckhardt and his guide eventually saw daylight pierce the darkness. What he saw next was nothing less than breath taking.

Who couldn't stand in awe at these ruins carved into the mountain? Moving along and trying not to blow his disguise, Burckhardt witnessed other structures protruding into the mountains. His guide growing ever more suspicious finally saw through his disguise and said:

"I see clearly now that you are an infidel. Who has some particular business amongst the ruins of your forefathers; but depend on it that we shall not suffer you to take out a single coin of all the treasures hidden therein!"

The Sand People

The story of Petra starts with a nomadic people called the Nabataeans who settled the area in the 4th century BC. Although Archaeology is having trouble finding any artifacts to prove this conclusively.

In the early first century B.C. the desert nomads moved around selling spices and incense; never really staying in one place for too long. Their early history is shrouded in mystery. Why would successful desert traders feel the need to abandon their enterprise and settle down and follow a lifestyle similar to what Rome and other properous cities were doing at the time.

Petra began as a gathering site for Nabataean traders carrying incense, spice and perfume along two major ancient caravan routes. Commercial traffic to and from Petra steadily increased from the first century BC to the mid-first century AD, to keep up with the growing demand for luxury goods in Rome, Greece and Egypt.

So who were the Nabateans? Very little is actually known about them. They spoke a dialect of Arabic and later adopted Aramaic (the language that Jesus spoke). They worshipped many different gods. The city was governed by a royal family, and it does not appear to have had any kind of army, though it did have a location that provided a strong natural defense.

Roman Invasion

The Nabataean were very wealthy and powerful. Taxing traders and caravans along the route that passed through Petra caught the unwanted eye of Rome. Rome felt that if Petra was allowed to tax and raise the price of commercial goods, then they felt entitled to that profit. In AD 106, Emperor Trajan laid claim to all of Nabataea, calling his prize Arabia Petraea.

Visitors today can see varying blends of Nabataean and Greco-Roman architectural styles in the city's tombs, many of which were looted by thieves and their treasures thus lost. Some of the caravans started moving through Bostra, a city about 165 miles north of Petra in present-day Syria and the Romans eventually made that city the colonial capital. In the 4th century AD, Constantine I became Rome's first Christian emperor. This brought change all across the Roman Empire as the pagan gods were displaced by Christianity. By 350 AD, Petra had its own Christain bishop. Some of the tombs were remodeled as churches and a new cathedral, which boosted colorful mosaics on the walls, floor and ceilings, was built.

The Petra Theater; it looks Greco-Roman doesn't it?

Indiana Jones

If you have see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, chances are you have seen Petra. Unless you live under a rock of course. In the Hollywood movie, Harrison Ford reaches the Canyon of the Crescent Moon; the location of the Holy Grail.

Here we have Indy traveling through the Siq, the narrow tunnel to Petra.

Hollywood being Hollywood
In reality, the Treasury is nothing more than a facade with a relatively small hall once used as a royal tomb.

"You can't really say that anything in Indiana Jones is accurate," Haifa University archaeologist Ronny Reich said. "I was once asked in the United States if one of the responsibilities of Israeli archaeologists is to chase down Nazis. I told them, 'Not any more. Now we just chase down pretty women.'"

Petra Today

Petra never really was "lost" to begin with. The Bedouin tribes just referred to Petra as a different name. Archaeologist are still hard at work unearthing this lost wonder of the world.

Petra Today
Our knowledge of Petra changes every day. With less than one-twentieth of the ancient city unearthed, new wonders constantly emerge at the hands of Jordanian, French, Swiss and American archaeologists. Excavators found an immense pool complex near the Great Temple in 1998; in 2000, a Nabataean villa outside the Siq. In a stunning 2003 discovery, rock-cut tombs came to light beneath the Treasury, challenging old ideas about this iconic building. Now as in the past, Petra has the capacity to astonish.

But this ancient metropolis exists in today's world. Two thousand years of wind and water have taken a toll on its fragile stone. Visitors have increased ten-fold since 1990. The city must be protected from the elements—and its admirers. Scientists and engineers from around the world are rebuilding Nabataean dams and planning restoration of the ancient water supply system, marveling as they work at the genius of Petra's original inhabitants.

The Obelisk Tomb, the first of the "big" tombs that you see when you make your way down towards Petra

The Urn Tomb, named for the "urn" at the top. It is sometimes called "the Court" from its utilisation under the Roman rule

The Monastery or "Ed Deir" in Arabic.


National Geographic
New York Times Article
The UnMusuem
Picture References

posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 07:54 PM
Thanks for sharing the detail and images. Petra is one of the cities I've read/seen dealing with it in paranormal shows, more. So, I've been interested in it from that factor more than the movie showings. Just haven't gotten around to more of the historical facts. The Nabataean and Greco-Roman tiles seem so intricate, as the city as a whole seems so it's own world.

edit on 24-8-2011 by dreamingawake because: more added

posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 08:05 PM
reply to post by dreamingawake

What fascinates me the most is that a bunch of wandering nomads selling textiles, perfume, incense, etc transformed a rocky, treacherous, mountain region into a bustling city. If you've ever been to a real desert, then setting up shop isn't exactly what one would consider ideal and worth while.

I also found the debate on whether or not the 800 excavated tombs of Petra meant that it was a City of the Dead. Evidence shows otherwise but one has to wonder: if Petra was a monument and burial ground for the dead, why do it in the middle of a mountain region in the middle of the desert?

Fascinating none-the-less! I can't wait for the other 85% to be uncovered! Who knows, maybe the Holy Grail is in there? After all, the Siq is said to be the place Moses struck his staff that produced water during the Exodus.

posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 08:08 PM
Coool, I remember this place from An Idiot Abroad

"It looks alright. I'm basically in the middle of a load of rock and someone's carved it out."

Karl [to people living there]: So what do you put down as an address?
Native: Jordan, Petra.
Karl: That's never gonna get to you!
Native: Yeah!
Karl: A postman would know?
Native: Yes.
Karl: Everything you order always gets to your house... the cave?
Native: Yeah.
Karl: I can't believe that because I order stuff and sometimes it doesn't turn up, and I've got a postcode! That's amazed me more than the wonder!

- Karl Pilkington

edit on 24/8/2011 by Fazza! because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 08:10 PM
Good pics. I was there less than a year ago and walked down that trail you showed pictures of. It was awesome. The really funny thing was, after walking a mile or so down that very steep canyon trail, it turns out to the right of the "treasury" Petra goes on for a couple of miles and is easily accessible, even by car. The way back up was seriously steep, but even at over 60, we made it. One guy, younger than me, but overweight, was so red-faced I thought he was gonna pass out. Later I saw him on a horse, which you can rent for the last open mile up. he was saying,

"Good donkey. Good donkey!" (and totally exhausted.) Here's this Bedouin guy trying to catch up to his horse saying, "That guy called my horse a donkey!" (perfect English) We walked back up the last mile together laughing about the big fat guy on the "donkey."

A lot different than Indiana Jones depicted it, but an awesome place.

posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 08:48 PM
I love post like this, It amazes me how resourceful we are especially with engineering feats like these.
With all the negative mankind post im still a proud human

posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 09:27 PM
This is a beautiful place and the amount of work is insane. Imagine the time it took to carve a city out of a mountain. I wonder what happened when they messed up. Would they have to start over and set the design further in the rock or just work the mistake into the design some how.

I would not want to be an apprentice rock carver working on that project. Heads were probably lost if you screwed up an almost complete building. Even if you kept your head, I'm sure you lost your job and were put on rock toting duty from then on. Nobody wants to be a human rock hauler.


posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 09:30 PM
Petra has always been one of my favorite locations I want to visit someday. It also happens to be my favorite music group......

posted on Aug, 24 2011 @ 10:01 PM
This was an interesting read, there was some pretty cool information in there. Thanks for sharing with us all, star and flag. Now I have to get back to reading up on the source links you provided. Cool topic

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 03:53 AM
reply to post by novastrike81

Great thread.
I will keep reading this with interest.

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 04:01 AM

Originally posted by novastrike81
reply to post by dreamingawake

Fascinating none-the-less! I can't wait for the other 85% to be uncovered! Who knows, maybe the Holy Grail is in there? After all, the Siq is said to be the place Moses struck his staff that produced water during the Exodus.

i read somewhere that they think the holy grail is on oak island, Nova Scotia at the bottom of the money pit. look it up, its very interesting reading

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 04:02 AM
First of all there is no such thing as Greco-Roman Style. There is Greek style which was adapted by the romans. Plus if you look how primitive the Nabateans build there homes you will see that it is impossible that they build something like that. The Word Petra itself is greek and means Stone and the architecture is typical greek with the triangular Pediment the greek columns etc.

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 06:55 AM
When I hear the word "Petra" or see those pics, I remember the movie "The Mummy".

I cannot imagine how long they carved that mountain to make it look like that. Then again they might have sophisticated tools that we are not aware of. We always assume that the people from the past are backwards and don't know any sophisticated tools. We can always charge it to our ignorance of the past.

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 08:26 AM
That place is magnificent, i wonder what else could be hidden in the area near by, i´ll make sure to visit it along with my trip to Egypt.

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 09:19 AM
I had the opportunity to travel to Petras while on active duty in the navy (1998). We had pulled into the Port of Aqaba in Jordan. We were tied up for 30 days in support of the Jordanian Air Force. Interesting times (lot's of stories but I'll just stick to Petras). This was one of the Morale/Leisure trips funded by the military. I paid my 12.00 and boarded the bus for the 3 hour trip up to Petras. We passed through the Wadi where Lawrence of Arabia supposedly blew up the train in 1917. Beautiful scenery. We parked at the tourist parking lot and began the walk into Petras. We walked through the pass where Indy and his crew went through the canyon. Along the sides, you can see where the builders etched in the trough where water ran into the city. The first structure you see is the bank (the building they supposedly go into to recover the chalice). The building doesn't go anywhere. Once you walk in, it's just a big room with one small room cut in on the left side. Walking into the city was incredible. Tombs and real old structures cut into the walls everywhere. Deeper into the city, you can see the Roman influence. Pillars and stone roads built through the middle of the valley. We walked up (it's a long hike) to the Monastery of Ed Deir. Again, there is just one large room cut into the side of the mountain. But, it was very peaceful inside with many nice rugs placed on the floor where you could take off your shoes and just relax after the trek up to the place. There was a small kiosk outside the entrance where you could buy a cold drink.
Very much worth the time. Great experience. There was a fairly large out door restaurant for lunch too.
The only negative was on the ride home. I noticed a "rider" who went along with us besides the driver and tour guide. He had a gym bag with him and when I happened to see inside it, there was an AK-47 and an Uzi in side. As much as I didn't like being in the Middel East, this trip was great. Petras is truly one of the wonders of the world.

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 10:37 AM
reply to post by novastrike81

excellent post. i love reading about ancient lost cities it never fails to amaze me

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 12:19 PM

Originally posted by novastrike81
Once considered the nexus of the Near East, Petra was an economic powerhouse located in the mountains of Jordan. This ancient city was ruled by the Nabateans, who harnessed the power of water in a desolate landscape and thrived to a population well over 20,000. As time went on trading routes changed, political agendas evolved, and this once vibrant city was lost to history. For nearly two thousand years, this ancient wonder of the world lay in ruins holding precious secrets. Archaeologist have uncovered new splendors, and magnificent objects, that would bring this once desert city back to life!

have you guys noticed the main structure/facade is called "the treasury"

have you guys realized yet that the egyptian/greek/roman/templar/masonic architecture is still all over the capitols and banks of the world today. and here is was in petra


something very SPECIAL about this place. i can see it by just looking at the architecture. if I'm' not mistaken templars carved a church/temple into rock in Africa years later..
edit on 25/8/11 by masqua because: Trimmed quote

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 12:22 PM
This is the same tomb from transformers! Anyone want to elaborate on that any? I did not see anyone mention it but noticed it right off the bat!

Sorry to be off topic, but I am not educated on any of this(yet) but this was the first thing that came to mind.
edit on 25-8-2011 by randomthoughts12 because: off topic slightly

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 01:26 PM
reply to post by Hellas

is that true?

so the romans didn't create any architecture just borrowered from greeks?

well where did greeks get it?

connection to egypt/ the builders?

posted on Aug, 25 2011 @ 01:31 PM
reply to post by novastrike81

I love this. I really don't have much to add except I plan on reading up on this. This is the stuff I dreamt of when I was a kid... not specifically this, but ruins in general.

It's amazing.

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