arc Brown University Petra Excavations elephant elephant
  arc 2004 Field Campaign - Eleventh Year elephant elephant

Photograph of the Petra Great Temple to south at the opening of the 2004 Brown University Excavations

Photograph, the Petra Great Temple to south at the close of 2004 .


The 12th season of excavations by Brown University archaeologists took place from June 5 until August 5, 2004, under the direction of Martha Sharp Joukowsky. To better understand its stratigraphic development and phasing, excavations continued in all sectors of the Great Temple—Propylaeum, Lower Temenos, Upper Temenos and in the Great Temple.

This campaign would not have been possible without the generous assistance of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, Fawwaz al-Kraysheh, Director, and Suleiman Farajat Director of the Petra National Park Sami Al-Nawafleh our Department of Antiquities Representative 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.

Excavation Results

(All photographs by A. W. Joukowsky)


The Propylaeum is now been completely exposed and the east west extent of the Great Temple Precinct is well defined. We suspected there was an earlier central stairway from the Roman Road into the precinct, and partially uncovered it.

The Central Propylaeum earlier stairs to the northwest

The Propylaeum in its 16.50 m north south width-by-60 m east west width is comprised of five rooms to the east of the Central Stairway lying perpendicular to the Roman Street, whereas to the west are two large galleries are constructed parallel to the street. Thus the architectural character of the East Propylaeum is now confirmed to be considerably different from its counterpart to the west. Revealed on the Propylaeum East in 2003 and continued in 2004 are five rooms, including three entries into the Propylaeum East from the Roman Street, two of which were shops and the third, Room 3 (shown below) was a monumental passageway into the East Cryptoporticus.

Room 3 Corridor before 2004 excavation in 2004

Room 3 Corridor after 2004 excavation

Room 4 to the east of Room 3 was blocked in the Roman period, and Room 5 was partially exposed as a hexagonally paved area that may have served as part of the Garden-Pool complex to the Great Temple east. These two rooms demarcate the eastern limit of the Great Temple precinct.

Propylaeum West

One of our 2004 objectives is to better understand the stratigraphy related to the 55 ballista balls found in the north gallery of the Propylaeum West in 2002. A series of test trenches clearly indicates that this area is the staging of a conflict, for 363 additional ballista balls are found. They are weighed and are in the process of being published. One of our many queries is if these missiles are prepared for an attack or are used in preparation for attack.

Ballista balls from the Propylaeum East in situ, 2004

Lower Temenos

Most important of the 2004 excavations is the recovery of the West Cryptoporticus underlying the West Triple Colonnade. Measuring 34.14 m north south-by east west 9.32 m, these galleries are completely exposed in 2004. Found in the deposits are four elephant-head capitals, two of which now embellish the restored columns of the Lower Temenos entry to the Great Temple precinct. Massive amounts of elephant capital elements, column drums and arch voussoirs are recovered with the total number of architectural fragments numbering over 2000 elements. These arched cryptoportici are found to continue to the Propylaeum, as we originally suspected they would.   

An elephant head from the Cryptoporticus West, 2004 Excavations

Cryptoportici in the Lower Temenos West

Left: Lower Temenos West Cryptoporticus before excavation to south, 2002; Right: Lower Temenos West Cryptoporticus after excavation, 2004

Upper Temenos South

The Upper Temenos Settling Tank with preserved hydraulic cement.

In the Upper Temenos several projects clarify the water systems, and here next to the Baroque Room is a completely excavated settling tank as well as a small flight of stairs leading from the Upper Temenos to the Residential Quarter. Here a complete Nabataean cooking pot and jug are found.

Upper Temenos North

One of the most difficult projects undertaken this year was the opening of the Central Stairway once leading from the Lower Temenos to the Upper Temenos. These stairs had been filled in the Nabataean period when the two side access stairways were constructed. 

Central Stairs leading from the Lower Temenos to the Upper Temenos to south before (above) and after (below) the 2004 excavations


Excavations in the Temple area focused on reinvestigating the precinct’s extensive canalization system. A number of large built canals with hydraulic plaster were discovered as well as several smaller lead pipes.

This is a view of larger East West canal, with overlying stone sockets for smaller North South channels.

Catalog Registry

As far as the Catalog registry of Great Temple artifacts, 41 coins, are unearthed as well as 14 bone objects, three stucco fragments—one with a textile adhering to its surface, and 32 lamps. Ceramic objects number 13, and stone objects are 11. Most surprising are the number of 172 metal artifacts mainly found in the West Cryptoporticus East excavations.

All the coins from the 2002-2003 excavations now have been cleaned, identified and registered. These 82 coins were turned over to the Department of Antiquities in Petra.

Artifact Registry

  In our Grosso Modo registry of artifacts, including pottery sherds, bone, metal, shell and faience, some 19,000 objects were registered in this database in 2004. In our separate database for architectural elements, 3012 were registered including 276 column drums, 611 vault/arch elements, and 218 elephant head fragments.

  2004 also saw the reorganization of our on-site artifact storage. This was undertaken so that we would be able to find useful elements to be used for consolidation or reconstruction. This activity is described in our separate report on the 2004-2005 conservation efforts we wish to undertake in the future.

  Additionally the on-going analysis of the Residential Quarters fine wares continued, as did the inception of the study of the Great Temple figurine corpus.

Consolidation (See separate report)

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 Propylaeum columns and the pointing of walls.

Sponsors and Staff

This work was funded by the Luther I. Replogle Foundation, the Brown University Exploration Fund and the Joukowsky Family Foundation.

Brown University Staff members included Martha Sharp Joukowsky, Director, Artemis A. W. Joukowsky, Photographer, and 11 supervisors served as most valued staff members, including Joseph J. Basile, Brian A. Brown, Emily Catherine Egan, Emma Susan Libonati, Christian F. Cloke (Surveyor), Eleanor A. Power, Tarek M. Khanachet, Monica Sylvester, Sara Karz Reid, Michael S. Zimmerman, Christopher A. Tuttle, Deirdre G. Barrett (Cataloguer), and Shari L. Saunders (Residential Quarter Pottery).

Petra Great Temple 2004 Excavation Team: Back row from left: Eleanor A. Power, Emily Catherine Egan, Christian F. Cloke, Sara Karz Reid, Michael S. Zimmerman, Brian A. Brown. Front Row: Tarek M. Khanachet, Artemis W. Joukowsky, Martha Sharp Joukowsky, Dakhillallah Qublan, Christopher A. Tuttle, Emma Susan Libonati.

We were supported by a work force of 50 devoted Bedouin, directed by Dakhilallah Qublan, Foreman.  

The Petra Crowne Plaza Hotel and the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, to whom we are most grateful, also provided additional support.

Martha Sharp Joukowsky, Director, August 2004


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