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  arc 1994 Field Campaign - Second Year elephant elephant
Goals | Background | 1994 Results | Catalog | Field Conservation

The results for the second year of archaeological survey and excavation of the Great Temple at Petra in Jordan continued to be conducted under the auspices of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities as part of an on-going research project. These archaeological investigations were undertaken from June 15 to August 15, 1994, under the direction of Professor Martha Sharp Joukowsky, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

The staff was comprised of A. W. Joukowsky, Administrator and Photographer; E. Schluntz, Assistant Director; D. Pitney, Engineer, Chief Architect-Surveyor; L. Traxler and P. Zimmerman Architect-Surveyors; G. Bilder, Computer Analyst; M. Slaughter, Photographic Recorder and Photo Development; Ceramic Analyst, L.-A. Bedal; K. Mallak and M. Parr, Finds Recording; K. Jacobsen, Draftsperson; P. Nalle, Mining Engineer; Senior Archaeologist, Dr. P. J. Parr, with E. Payne, G. J. Haigh-Austin, H. Beckman and A. R. Retzleff; and volunteers M. Nalle, K. Patrecci, F. Bennett, M. Greenleaf, Dr. M-K. Hunt and B. and Dr. M. Alderman. Besides Dr. P. J. Parr, Great Temple Consultants in 1994 included C. Augé numismatics, and P. Warnock botanical materials analysis.

The Great Temple had been opened to exploratory research in 1993, and these investigations continued in 1994 with historic research, archaeological testing by the survey and excavation of several temple areas, such as the Propylaea and other in situ features in the Lower Temenos. Fieldwork also consisted of field reconnaissance and analysis of the ancient landscape and ancient and contemporary drainage problems.


The goals of the 1994 season were to:
  1. Clear the Temple precinct of earthquake debris and to excavate and clarify its architectural plan;
  2. Investigate and assess the nature, extent and depth of the stratigraphy within the Canalization System, the Lower Temenos, the Exedra and the Lapidary West;
  3. Provide a working plan of the Temple design by survey;
  4. Prepare the site for further research and excavation;
  5. Interpret the Petra Great Temple's phases of use and function(s).


The site-specific excavation strategy created in 1993 was further developed in 1994. This included the use of Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) interfaced with the COMPASS program developed by MASCA of the University of Pennsylvania; and our site specific computer database, with a consistent nomenclature.

1994 Results

A detailed topographic map was completed, so that the relationship between the Great Temple and its immediate surroundings could be ascertained. The site grid system had been established across the Upper Temenos in 1993, but this year we were able to extend it to the Lower Temenos, the West Lapidary and the Propylaea Steps. Excavations were conducted in accordance with the grid using maps generated on scales of 1:100 and 1:50. Detailed archaeological site plans were compiled to include all visible features such as fallen columns and walls. By the end of the1994 season, this plan encompassed the temple and its entire precinct. To the five main areas established in 1993: 1) the Propylaea Steps, 2) the Lower Temenos, 3) the Grand Stairway, and the 4) Upper Temenos with 5) the Great Temple - was added a sixth area, the Lapidary West (prepared field for the temporary storage of architectural fragments). All of these areas were documented by excavation in 1994.

Beginning north to south, the 1994 survey and excavations will be briefly described. The Propylaea Steps had been partially documented in 1993. In 1994, however, the side walls and each block were surveyed (block-by-block - over 350 individual blocks), and further consolidation of the steps was undertaken. It was clearly established that this entrance from the Colonnaded Street was in direct alignment with the Temple, and, therefore, served the precinct.

In the Lower Temenos, the column drums used by the local farmers to divide the area were recorded and moved to the west of the area, and a sondage was excavated (Trench 6) to determine the Lower Temenos' depth of deposit as well as to investigate the northern route of the Canalization System. A limestone hexagonal pavement (the largest pavers known to date in Jordan) was found under a ca. 1.50 meter deposit of fill, which thereafter was found to continue into the 10-by-10 meter excavated trench located four meters to the north of Trench 6 in Trench 13, indicating that this pavement did in fact continue, and in all likelihood covered the Lower Temenos. Trench 13's south balk, however, was found disturbed, and may have been impacted by the canalization system that also coursed underground north from the Temple Forecourt (Trench 1), under the monumental stairway to the Lower Temenos.

Yet another investigatory probe in the Lower Temenos was the excavation of one-half of the West Exedra (Trench 5) to what we believe was one of its original floor levels. On top of a floor resting at the base of an eastern engaged column was found a capital with an unusual embellishment — the usual corner volutes were replaced with elephant-heads! We posit these decorative elements originally adorned this West Exedra structure. Several other carved limestone fragments including elephant ears, cheek-pieces, and trunks were identified and registered as having come from this area, which suggests that this was the place of this decorative capital's origin.

Within the Upper Temenos, to the immediate north of the temple itself, the northern branch of the four-branched subterranean canalization system uncovered in 1993 was mapped underground for 11 meters, and soil samples were taken to analyze its botanical content. The Upper Temenos was further examined by the completion of Trench 2 initiated in 1993, and with a block-by-block survey of the Temple Stylobate. In the excavation of Trenches 8, 10 and 11 which border the Temple west, a paved walkway was uncovered. Delicately sculpted facial fragments were recovered from this area as well as many finely decorated architectural elements and coins.

Excavations were also conducted along the north temple interior, consisting of one irregularly-sized trench (Trench 12) positioned behind and to the south of the stylobate, and east of the walkway area, so that the character of the temple proper might be further ascertained. Found here was a massive anta wall resting on a finely carved Attic base, which we have identified with the original Temple construction.

Additionally, in the Temple south two trenches (Trenches 9 and 15) were excavated in the Temple rear, which is dominated by a large, now-consolidated central vaulted arch. To the west and east of this arch were found twin stepped arched passages leading to a paved platforms, and in Trench 9, to the west, a series of steps were recovered which may have led either down into the temple cella or to an exit. It was still premature to speculate whether the Great Temple is a two or three level structure, but future excavations have provided us with a better understanding of this sector's architectural plan.

A number of special projects were undertaken to locate the columns on the Temple East as well as in the Temple South. These were very productive investigations and resulted in the revised Temple plan. To the south at the end of the cella were six columns, five of which had now been located, and eight were located along each of its east and west flanks. At that time, the easternmost column had yet to be found as well as the northeast side column. (In sum, of the 22 columns which hypothetically decorated the Temple naos, 20 are currently known to be in situ.). Thus we were able to obtain more precise information regarding the plan of the temple, and to gain a better understanding of its architectural components.

As we mentioned above, the Lapidary West was investigated by a sondage to determine if it held cultural deposits (Trench 7). Several Nabataean levels were located with a wealth of Nabataean pottery. Over 100 of the pottery fragments from this area were drawn and described, and samples were sent for petrographic and neutron activation (NAA) testing at the University of Missouri at Columbia, under the sponsorship Applied Science Center of the University of Pennsylvania Museum (MASCA).

The building and use phases of each area were arranged in chronological sequence, and the inter-relationships between architectural components were tentatively established. Based on the 1994 excavations, the general sequence or phases of the Great Temple precinct were determined.


The 1994 catalog of more than 150 items was been prepared for the Department of Antiquities at the Petra Museum, and all registered artifacts are in storage there. Recovered were some 36 coins, six limestone facial frieze elements, 47 lamps, most of which were fragmented, a delicate Roman glass head vase, and some 49 ceramics which included a figurine fragment with sandaled feet, two Nabataean bowls and several complete small cups, juglets and bowls.

Field Conservation

The proper protection and conservation of each of the temple sectors is a major responsibility of the current project. One of the site's most important consolidation efforts was the anastylosis (reconstruction stone-by stone) of the lower curbing of the Propylaea Steps. Other such projects prioritized the stylobate and crepidoma of the temple facade.

Other completed projects include:

  • The removal and reinstallation of the east buttress in the West Exedra;
  • The construction of steps at the temple entry;
  • The replacement of column drums with better preserved elements in the temple facade and in the east colonnade of the eastern Lower Temenos;
  • The retirement of heavily eroded drums;
  • The construction of a fence around the temple to protect it from animals and pot hunters.
  • The construction of a massive flood control channel to divert water away from the structure;
  • The backfilling of trenches so they are not exposed to air and water seepage during the rainy periods;
  • The protection of delicate areas by roofing them over with zinc sheeting held in place by sandbags
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