|1999 Field Campaign - Seventh Year|
Under the auspices of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, the seventh season by Brown University archaeologists took place at the Petra Great Temple from June 5 to August 6, 1999. Sami Al-Nawfleh very ably served as our Jordanian Department of Antiquities Representative.
Consolidation of exposed architecture had been undertaken throughout the 1998-1999 year and included the preservation of the frescos in the Temple West Corridor by Ueli Bellwald. Although the architectural remains are remarkably well-preserved, annual consolidation measures have been put in place by the re-erection of the Temple West Corridor doorway, and six columns in the Lower Temenos - the northernmost stands to an approximate height of seven meters including the elephant headed capital.
Although the 1999 excavations concentrated on the Great Temple, the Lower Temenos was completely cleared of overburden exposing the Hexagonal Pavement and defining the East Triple Colonnade. Not only did we find another bust of a Fortuna pilaster, but we also recovered the first complete elephant head from an elephant headed capital in the west Lower Temenos where it had collapsed in antiquity. Added to this were several more elephant parts bringing the total number of sculpted elephant elements to 200 fragments.
Also excavated on the Temple West was the entire West Walkway, which measures some 36 meters in length by 3.85 meters in width. The depth of deposit was approximately four meters in the Walkway south and although the four doorways leading from the West Walkway into the West Corridor were initially thought to have been damaged in antiquity, they were found to be in excellent condition and require only minor consolidation.
On the Temple East, the inner East Vaulted Chamber of the Great Temple was cleared and a branch of the Subterranean Canalization System was revealed. This system was analyzed in detail and its path continued into this vaulted room from the Central Arch excavated in 1998.
Of greatest significance, however, was the continued and completed excavation of the Theater which now has completely exposed this eloquent structure in its entirety. Revealed here were the stairways, the lower six courses of seats and the stage building (scaenae frons) which has been found to survive in better condition in the east than that of the earlier excavated theater west. This Theatron truly is the most extraordinary structural component of the Great Temple. Recorded here were hundreds of fragments of superbly carved architectural sculpture fallen in the building's collapse.
Additionally a section of the East Walkway was excavated as well as the entire Temple East Corridor with standing walls of six meters in depth. Although this Corridor's frescoed walls have been damaged, the decorative program of the East Corridor is found to replicate the West Corridor walls with stucco panels and wall relief decorative elements accented by colorful architectural representations in reds, greens, yellows and browns. This decorative scheme can be dated to the first century CE.
The most interesting excavations of the Temple east revealed not only the Subterranean Canalization System to the north set into a pebble foundation platform, but also lying further to the east was a large section of bedrock which in antiquity had been quarried by the Nabataeans and paved with limestone pavers. This impressive plaza (5-by-25 meters) served as a lavish platform for the monumental East Perimeter Wall of the Temple Precinct, which connects in the north to the arched 'cistern' excavated in 1998 and to an as yet unexcavated area in the south. Measuring more than 10 rows of ashlars in width-by-34 meters in excavated length, its eastern face is comprised of 14 courses in height, and the depth of deposit at its highest point is 10 meters. Set into the wall is a half-excavated doorway, which in antiquity stood to a 3.39 meter height. Covered for 2000 years, its simple entablature and interior variegated sandstone ceiling remain in pristine condition and exhibit Nabataean workmanship at its best.
The awesome height of the East Perimeter Wall includes two interrelated parallel walls - the inner East Perimeter Wall which was cleared, has, lying approximately 1.5 meters further to the east, a higher more eastern arched extension. We suspect that the interrelationship between these two walls is more complex than we can see at present and we tentatively posit that between them on the north there is either a stepped passage or perhaps a conduit for water. Lying just outside the East Perimeter wall was discovered a reservoir or water catchment system, which may relate to its functional purpose. The future excavation of this area holds great promise.
Other than the complete elephant head and the inset pilaster of Fortuna an additional relief pilaster perhaps of an Amazon was recovered as well as numbers of painted stucco fragments, several with gold leaf still adhering to their surfaces. Also unearthed were fragments of several figurines, a crude Deity block representing the frontal female figure shown in a temple, as well as large amounts of Nabataean pottery that have been dated by specialist Daniel Keller from the early 1st century BCE to the early 2nd century CE. Small artifacts included 34 coins, several lamps, glass, a bone cosmetic spoon and a needle.
This has been an extraordinary season, and I have to deeply thank my stalwart seven member veteran archaeological team, our faithful Bedouin and Wadi Musa workforce, and most particularly the Department of Antiquities and Petra Regional Council for their support and loan of heavy equipment. Without the able expertise of all of these components, this season would have fallen far short of our expectations. The Great Temple excavations give us pause to re-evaluate and reinterpret what is known about the urban design of Nabataean Petra.
The West Corridor Wall, east face required stabilization before the restoration of the stucco decoration. Cleaning around the stone ashlars and the use of snecking stones to fill the interstices was integral to this project. Once completed, Ueli Bellwald continued to consolidate and reconstruct the frescos on the east face of the West Corridor wall. Among other projects in the Temple, was the re-erection of the northernmost Temple West Corridor doorway, the repair of the bases of the West Corridor columns, and the rebuilding of the West Walkway Wall to one height. The rear west heart-shaped column also has been restored to a seven meter height using its original components.
Among the projects now being consolidated in the Temple Theater is the restoration of the top wall of the cavea (north of the diazoma). The consolidation of the stairs of the staircases, the restoration of the walkway of the lowest aisle (diazoma), the replacement of the missing seats and the consolidation of those in situ, and the replacement of the missing ashlars with either those found in the lapidary or with the
creation of substitutes is presently underway. In the Temple East Corridor the excavated doorway arch was found in good condition, however, we are undertaking some consolidation of the arch ashlars (voussoirs). Ueli Bellwald has consolidated and reconstructed the frescos on the exposed face of the East Corridor column with yellow stucco removed from the column. Now that the East Corridor has been excavated in its entirety, the east west rear staircase has been restored. This is a convenience for the flow of visitors. To serve for protection, additional fencing has been placed around the perimeter of the site
Copyright© 1999 Brown University