|The Upper Temenos|
The Upper Temenos served for the location and surround of the sanctuary of the Great Temple. The Upper Temenos stands at an elevation of approximately 884.41m the same elevation as the base of the temple podium. The component parts of the Upper Temenos include the Temple Forecourt on the north, the East, West, and South Walkways which in width measure approximately 3.50 m (10.5 feet). Beyond the walkways and surrounding the structure there is approximately an additional eight meters (24 feet) before reaching the precinct perimeter walls.
The Temple can be seen to have been protected on its east by a large retaining wall, and although it is unexcavated, we can assume that the whole area was walled-in with at least a low wall so as not to detract from the temple itself. Such a wall must have been appointed with entryways on all three sides the south, east and west. Some scholars have hypothesized that there may have been a colonnade around the interior perimeter of the Upper Temenos enclosure, but up to this point there have been no signs of one, if it existed.
There is what we think may be an entryway into the Upper Temenos from the northwest, which up to this point has not undergone excavation. On the east there was the discovery in 1996 of an arched structure that may have served as the entrance to the Temple Precinct from the so-called "Lower Market" which is posited to have laid adjacent to the temple on its east.
Fully revealed behind the East Exedra was an arched structure we have identified as a 'cistern' measuring 11.05 m east-west-by-3.15 m north-south-by-5 m in depth, partially cut out of bedrock. The vaulting of the cistern shares the rear wall of the East Exedra. Seven vaulted arches span from the East Exedra to its south wall. Constructed sometime later, a narrow (1.1 m) seven-step service staircase connected the eastern stairs and this "room." This area was thoroughly investigated save its southwest balk, which was purposefully left to support the collapsed porch columns of the Temple east. The bottom of the 'cistern' was cut out of bedrock to a 1.7-m level below a later built plaster floor.
We have tentatively identified this feature as a cistern although its purpose has been questioned due to the fact that the plaster on the walls is decorative rather than the usual hydraulic plaster found in other parts of the site. Could this have been a decorated cistern? Or was the elegantly colored plaster put in place when it served in yet another capacity? At this point there is no other reasonable explanation for this room, so we will suggest that it was originally constructed as a cistern until for some reason it went out of use and may have served as a marble storage area and/or workshop. Finally, the pottery suggests that in about 100 BCE it functioned as a dump.
Above the cistern level large amounts of white marble were stored in the eastern part of the room. The excavator, L.D. Bestock, reasons that this area then served either as a storage area or as a marble workshop, for what might have been the remains of metal tools also were recovered at the same level. Associated with the workshop phase is a bronze plaque measuring 0.14 m in length-by 0.62 m in width-by-0.05 m in thickness. It carries a Nabataean eight-letter inscription, that when translated may be a reference to a king or queen of Petra. This reading is tentative and will have to be confirmed by our epigraphic experts. A smaller bronze fragment measuring 0.052-by-0.033-by-0.07 m was found, but unfortunately it does not fit the larger fragment but originally probably belonged to it.
Above and around the stored marble blocks was a deep dump deposit, which sloped from west to east. Found was a plethora of exquisitely decorated plaster, including two wall fragments with partial painted Nabataean inscriptions. A provisional reading of the larger inscription by Suleiman Farajat is "Abd Salem," in English, meaning, "Servant of Peace." It is written in a script similar to that appearing on the At-Turkmaniyya tomb (McKenzie 1990:35) which Starcky dates to Malichus II, or to the middle of the first century CE. Also recovered were a Pompeiian red fresco fragment with an incised Greek inscription or graffito, and a fresco fragment of a man's face, and fragments of molded plaster, some of which were gilded. Also found were fine pottery, glass, and bone implements, several Nabataean coins, shell and tesserae. Two architectural fragments are of particular interest; including a lower order exquisitely carved smaller than usual acanthus capital measuring 0.55 m in diameter with the composition of a grand bouquet of acanthus around the circumference of the capital. Additionally there was a Nabataean blocked out capital measuring 0.26-by-0.28-by 0.34 m, McKenzie's type 3, (1990:190) which is the first of this type we have found at the Temple site in this particular shape. McKenzie (1990:122) dates this type of capital to AD 129 from those found at Ed Deir and the Palace Tomb. These elements are different from those heretofore associated with the temple contexts.
These excavations also produced a full repertoire of first century Nabataean fine painted and plain wares with some complete forms. The Nabataeans liked to drink and eat from their decorated pottery — marvels of both lightness and strength with their well-fired thin wares that have a ring almost like crystal. The quality of these finds suggests that this dump deposit might possibly date from the time the Temple was being remodeled. The collection was so extraordinary in its range that we wondered if this could have been a dump for ritual artifacts? The pottery read by Y. Gerber from this area places its contexts earlier than 70/80 CE or to the second half of the 1st century BCE, thus the terminus post quem for this Nabataean Dump is 100 CE. Laurel D. Bestock will publish this pottery as a group.
Copyright© 1999 Brown University