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PETRA (Gr. "rock," a translation of the Heb. sela), a ruined site in Edom, 140 mi. (224 km.) S. of Amman, 60 mi. (96 km.) N. of Elath. It is assumed that the biblical Sela was situated farther north (II Kings 14:7). In later sources (Jos., Ant., 4:161; Tosef., Shev. 4:11) it is called Rekem, a derivation of the Nabataean name Raqmu. Petra is situated in a broad valley, which is approached from the east by a long, narrow, and winding canyon, the Sīq, also called the Wadi Mūsā, which has several confluents in the plain of the city. The valley is surrounded by steep rocks of reddish Nubian sandstone. The place is safe from attack once the Sīq and its continuation to the west, the still narrower and more difficult Sayl al-Siyāgh, are barred. The earliest settlement is indicated by Edomite pottery found at the top of a rock called Umm al-Biyāra in the southwestern part of the site. This rock served mainly as a place of refuge, the last time during the attack on the Nabateans by Antigonus. Owing to its secure position, Petra was adopted by the Nabatean kings as their capital; the caravan routes from the Syrian desert, Elath, Gaza, and the Mediterranean converged there. In 106 C.E. the city was incorporated into the Roman Empire, remaining the capital of the region – Provincia Arabia – until the time of Hadrian, who endowed it with the title of metropolis. Papyri discovered in the caves of the Judean Desert reveal that Petra had a senate and archives, and that it was visited by the Jewish inhabitants of the province; possibly, a number of Jews lived there. When the capital of Arabia was transferred to Bosrah, the city began to decline. In the time of Diocletian (late third century), it was included in Palestine and in the fifth century became the metropolis of the province of Palaestina Tertia. It disappeared from history in Arab times, apart from a brief Crusader interlude when it was known as Li Vaux Moyse ("the valley of Moses"). Its ruins were discovered by Burckhardt in 1812. It has since been explored by numerous scholars, in particular by R.E. Brünnow and A. von Domaszewski, G. Dalman, Th. Wiegand, S. and A. Hersfield, D. Kirk-bride, and P.J. Parr. The first plan of Petra was made by W. von Bachmann in 1921, and a new accurate and measured map has been prepared in recent years by the architect C. Kanellopoulos. In the early 1980s Z. Muheissen made a study of the water-management systems of Petra and its vicinity. A major study of the architecture of Petra and its decorations was made by J. McKenzie and published in 1990. Excavations between 1988 and 1997 by B. Kolb have uncovered residential buildings close to ez-Zantur. Since 1993 major excavations have been undertaken at the Great Nabataean Temple and elsewhere by M.S. Joukowsky. A number of Byzantine churches have been investigated in an ACOR project led by P. Bikai, with the discovery in 1993 of an amazing cache of Greek papyri from the sixth century in one of the churches (St. Mary).

In the center of the plain of Petra are the remains of the town, which is partly surrounded by a wall extending from the southern suburb of al-Katūte to the tower sanctuary on ʿArqūb al-Hīsha in the east. The remains are mainly Hellenistic (Nabatean) and Roman, with additional Byzantine remains extending towards the north ridge. After 106 C.E., al-Katūte was abandoned and the town life was concentrated in the main colonnaded street (with shops) in the bed of the Wadi Mūsā. On the northern side of this street are, from east to west, two nymphaea and pool near the issue of Wadi al-Matāha, a "royal palace," and the Temple of the Winged Lions or Temple of Al-Uzza ("gymnasium"). On the southern side the "Trajanic Arch" leads to the "upper market" (agora) surrounded by a porticoe, with another market further west (the "middle market"), the Great Temple, with a lower temenos in front of it, and with an adjacent pool and garden complex (the so-called "lower" market) and a public bath. A triumphal arch (the "Temenos Gate") crosses the street not far from the bath, with towers to the north and south. Beyond it is the "Small Temple" and further to the west the Temple of Dushares, also known as Qaṣr al-Bint Farʿun ("the castle of Pharaoh's daughter"), one of the best-preserved buildings at Petra; it is a temple in antis on a podium with pronaos, cella, and an adytum in three parts. Another remarkable structure is the rock-cut theater close to the Siq, which was excavated in 1963. It consists of three tiers of seats with a scenae frons resembling that of the theater at Beth-Shean. Of principal interest at Petra are the rock-cut facades. Some of these may belong to temples (as e.g., the famous al-Khazna in the Sīq – recently additional chambers have been found at a lower level below the steps) and dwelling houses, but above all, they belong to monumental tombs of the kings and princely merchants of the city, including that of the Roman governor, Sextus Florentinus. At least 800 tombs are known. These facades are imitations of the scenae frons of the Hellenistic theater with several tiers of columns usually crowned with the type of capital known as Nabatean. The lowest tier has a doorway and mock windows and often, an inscription. The second tier is divided into round or square pavilions with broken gables and a tholos crowned by an urn in the center. There are also several "high places" and numerous rock carvings of a religious nature at and near Petra.


R.E. Bruennow and A. v. Domaszewski, Die Provincia Arabia, 1 (1904), 125–428; G. Dalman, Petra und seine Felsheiligtuemer (1908); idem, Neue Petra-Forschungen (1912); A. Kammerer, Petra et la Nabat-ène (1930); S. and A. Horsfield, in: QDAP, 7 (1938), 1ff.; 8 (1939), 87ff.; 9 (1942), 105ff.; G.L. Harding, The Antiquities of Jordan (1959), 114–35; D. Kirkbride, in: ADAJ, 415 (1960), 117–22; Parr, in: PEFQS, 89 (1957), 5ff.; 91 (1959), 106ff.; 92 (1960), 124–35; Wright, ibid., 93 (1965), 124ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Bachmann, T. Watzinger, and T. Wiegand. Petra, Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen des Deutsch-Türkischen Denkmalschutz-Kommandos (1921); C.M. Bennett, "The Nabataeans in Petra," in: Archaeology, 15 (1962): 233–43; I. Browning, Petra (1982); R.E. Brünnow and A. von Domaszewski, Die Provincia Arabia (3 vols) (1904–1909); G. Crawford, Petra and the Nabataeans: A Bibliography, ATLA Bibliography Series (2003); P.C. Hammond, The Nabataeans: Their History Culture and Archaeology (1973), 11; J.S. McKenzie, The Architecture of Petra. British Academy Monographs in Archaeology (1990); P.J. Parr, "Sixty Years of Excavation in Petra: A Critical Assessment," in; First International Conference, The Nabataeans. Oxford, 26–29 September 1989, in: ARAM, 2 (1990), 1 and 2:7–23; J. Starcky, "Pétra et la nabatène," in: Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supp. 7 (1966), 886–1017; J. Taylor, Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans (2001); F. Villeneuve, "Pétra et le royaume nabatèen," in; L'historie, 11 (1979), 50–58; F. Zayadine, (ed.), Petra and the Caravan Cities. Proceedings of the Symposium organized at Petra in September 1985 (1990); Z. Al-Muheisen and D. Tarrier, "Water in the Nabatean Period," in: ARAM, 13–14 (2001–2002): 515–24; T.S. Akasheh, "Ancient and Modern Watershed Management in Petra," in: ANE, 65:4 (2002), 220–24; L.A. Bedal, "Desert Oasis: Water Consumption and Display in the Nabatean Capital," in: ANE, 65:4 (2002), 225–34; M.S. Joukowsky, "The Petra Great Temple: A Nabatean Architectural Miracle," in: ANE, 65:4 (2002), 235–48; J. Bodel and S.K. Reid, "A Dedicatory Inscription to the Emperor Trajan from the Small Temple at Petra, Jordan," in: ANE, 65:4 (2002), 249–50; C. Kanellopoulos, "A New Plan of Petra's City Centre," in: ANE. 65:4 (2002), 251–54; B. Kolb, "Excavating a Nabatean Mansion," in: ANE, 65:4 (2002), 260–64; M.A. Perry, "Life and Death in Nabatea: The North Ridge Tombs and Nabatean Burial Practices," in: ANE, 65:4 (2002), 265–70; P.M. Bikai, "The Churches of Byzantine Petra," in: ANE, 65:4 (2002), 271–76; M. Lehtinen, "The Petra Papyri," in: ANE, 65:4 (2002), 277–78.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.