|2003 Field Campaign - Eleventh Year|
The eleventh season of excavations by Brown University archaeologists took place from July 5 until July 31, 2003, under the direction of Martha Sharp Joukowsky. Excavations continued in the Great Temple Propylaeum East.
This campaign would not have been possible without the generous assistance of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, Fawwaz al-Kraysheh, Director, and Suleiman Farajat our Department of Antiquities Representative and Director of the Petra National Park and the American Center of Oriental Research, Pierre M. Bikai, Director. We would also like to express our thanks to Brown University for making this season possible.
A large portion of the Propylaeum East has now been completely exposed in its 11.00 m north south width-by-17 m east west length to an approximate depth of 7.50 m. Although the finds were homogeneous, the architectural character of the East Propylaeum is considerably different from its counterpart to the west. Revealed were three entries into the Propylaeum East from the (Colonnaded) Street, two of which were rooms and the third was a passageway (?) into the East Cryptoporticus west. This suggests that the Propylaeum East installation was a more public space than its counterpart on the west. Of particular importance is that the Propylaeum East was contained within two walls, the Portico Wall and the Lower Temenos Retaining Wall, whereas the Propylaeum West had middle Wall K bisecting the area. This would seem to indicate that major revisions were undertaken in the Roman period, when Wall K was dismantled and the character of the Propylaeum East changed from east west galleries and cryptoporticoes to large north south rooms. Most curious about these rooms is that each of their three limestone thresholds has vestiges of ten closely fitting bars, which must have served as a stationary iron grills across their entry doorways. We question how these doorways and their rooms may have served in antiquity because access into and out of them would have been difficult with such impedimenta.
At first we thought we might be excavating shops, and that possibility cannot be ruled out, however, if what was protected was secured behind bars, they may have served as a state treasury or a place where exotica such as animals were kept. Unfortunately because of the massive collapse and robbing of the floors before the collapse, at this point, their functional analysis remains conjecture. What is known is that the contents of the rooms had been cleared before the collapse took place, for elephant headed capital fragments and pilaster blocks were found where they tumbled, on the floor of all three rooms.
East Propylaeum, Rooms 1, 2, and 3 looking north
Here the build up for the Lower Temenos was revealed above the upper course of the East Cryptoporticus. From this approximate 5.00 m depth of deposit in the three rooms, some 975 architectural fragments were registered—152 column drums (16%), 563 (58%) ashlar wall blocks—six of which bore Nabataean Mason’s Marks. There were 133 capital elements (14%) of which 39% were elephant head fragments, and 59 (6 %) cornice fragments, which clearly demonstrate the collapsed elements of the colonnade that fronted the Great Temple precinct on its north.
Several extraordinary finds included 19 relief sculptures, including the fragmented relief of a female figure emerging from acanthus leaves (infra).
Another spectacular fragment is a grape cluster tied with a ribbon. (I would like to suggest that some of the sculptures represented in McKenzie’s (1990 134-135, Plates 60-66) “1967 Group of Sculpture” dated to the first century BCE belong in fact to the Great Temple.)
Another pilaster block with a plumed helmet is shown above.
Another most exciting find was the fragmented relief of Athena with her weapons and a battered Medusa relief on her chest.
As far as the Catalog registry of Great Temple artifacts, 6 coins, a small horned altar, a bead and a metal clasp were unearthed.
As for consolidation, the Petra Great Temple has achieved tremendous success in reconstruction not only for Petra itself, but for the elucidation and distinction of Nabataean sites in general. Restoration has been under the direction of Dakhilallah Qublan and has included numerous projects including the re-erection of the columns and the pointing of walls. Below is the restoration of the East Exedra.
Naif Zaban was involved in the puzzle of fitting together the thousands of pottery fragments from the 2002 excavations of the Residential Quarter and Ulrich Bellwald removed the Baroque Room decorative plaster and continues to serve as its conservator.
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