arc Brown University Petra Excavations elephant elephant
  arc 1996 Field Campaign - Fourth Year elephant elephant
Goals | 1996 Results | Conservation and Restoration

The 1995 Excavation Team
1996 was the fourth year of two-month excavations by Brown University at the Great Temple. One of the most time-consuming surveying undertakings this year was the updating of the COMPASS program by its conversion into a new data base. The new program is known as FORESIGHT which was developed in part by Paul C. Zimmerman. The new system is more versatile, speeds up the results, and is easier to manipulate. All of our voluminous data files were converted to the new system.

The staff was comprised of Dr. M. S. Joukowsky, Director; Dr. A. W. Joukowsky, Administrator and Photographer; Dr. J. J. Basile, Associate Director, E. Payne, Assistant Director; Chief Architect-Surveyor; P. Zimmerman; M. Slaughter, Assistant Director, Photographic Recorder and Development; Ceramic Analyst, L.-A. Bedal; D. Barrett, Finds Recording; M. Sylvester. Computer Data Base, Dr. J. Blackburn, Draftsperson; and Erika Schluntz. Archaeologists, L. Bestock, B. Brown, K. A. Butler, J. Gimon, D. Goldstein and field excavators, Z. Habboo, R. Takian and E. Wolf; and volunteers F. Bennett, C. Hisert, K. Hisert, G. A. Hisert, and Faith Erickson-Gini. Again, besides Dr. T. Tullis, 1996 Great Temple Consultants included Dr. J. McKenzie, architectural historian, M. Shaer and Z. Aslan consolidation and preservation consultants as well as Paul S. Fay; Dr. C. Augé numismatics, S. Schmid, Nabataean fine wares analysis; Y. Gerber, Plain wares analysis, and P. Warnock, botanical materials analysis.


In the Lower Temenos:
  • to secure the interrelationship between the Lower Temenos and the Upper Temenos (Trench 18);
  • to understand the hexagonally paved Lower Temenos and its relationship to the monumental east-west Retaining Wall (Trenches 18 and 39);
  • to locate the eastern peripheral wall of the Lower Temenos (Trench 25);
  • follow this wall up to the Upper Temenos (Trench 38) so the dimensions and structural characteristics of the precinct would be better defined;
  • to locate the East Exedra (Trench 37);
  • to plot the East Colonnade of the Lower Temenos (Trenches 28, 30, 33, and 36);
  • to complete the test trench and find the founding level of 1995 Trench 17;
  • to determine the character of the western extension of the West Exedra (Trench 31).

In the Upper Temenos and in the Great Temple itself the initiatives were:
  • to clean the hexagonal pavers of the Temple Forecourt from the column fall to the Western Walkway (Trench 32);
  • to clear the overburden of the East Pronaos to the East Interior Anta Wall (Trench 24);
  • to understand the architectural configuration of the West Interior Pronaos (Trench 29);
  • to complete the excavations of the Adyton West Stairway and to continue the clearance of the vaulted interior room adjacent to it (Trench 22);
  • to determine the character of the Temple South (Trench 35);
  • to begin excavations of the central arch of the rear 'Adyton' (Trench 26) and to determine its interrelationship to the columnar rear of the structure (Trenches 27 and 35);
  • to assess the east Temple column fall and locate the east exterior temple wall, the southeast corridor, and the southeast Temple Wall and its heart-shaped corner column (Trench 34).

1996 Results

Not only was there a wealth of finds, including 60 coins, a Latin inscription, some 72 fragments — Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine, and large amounts of ceramic assemblages included unguentaria and bowls, but there were 31 more fragments of elephant sculpture, including eyes, trunks and faces. Of interest is the recovery of a large brain coral, presumably brought in antiquity from the Gulf of Aqaba, from the Temple rear west vaulted room. It was unearthed in association with many coins and the fragmented Latin inscription. There was continued study of the Great Temple sculptural program that includes richly adorned capitals embellished with fruits and vines. The number of small finds inventoried included fragmented glass bowls and several bone items — needles and a spatula. Bronze decorative pieces were found, including a leaf, a petal and a bronze buckle.

There were also extraordinary revelations about Nabataean temple architecture. The most significant 1996 architectural features indicate a Nabataean penchant for formal symmetry with the discovery in the Lower Temenos of east and west triple colonnades adorned with a total of 120 columns - 60 flanking each side of the Lower Temenos. also excavated was an elegant apsed East Exedra with interior buttresses with twin columns matches the already excavated Exedra West. Additionally on the east, the eastern peripheral wall of the precinct was defined to the east of the East Exedra, as well as twin arched passages in the Upper Temenos leading to the 'Lower Market' to the east. Additionally, one of the season's most significant discoveries was the excavation of a monumental flight of stairs leading from the west Lower Temenos sacred area to the Upper Temenos. These too were defined.

The sondage excavated in the Lower Temenos in 1995 was re-entered and once a floor was found, it was finally closed at a six meter depth.

In the Great Temple proper, the interior Pronaos was completely excavated in 1996 as was the northwestern interior anta wall and the founding levels of three of the eight western columns. The Attic base of the north west engaged column was found to extend south of the interior anta wall. In its interior was a staircase. Features in the temple rear included the complete excavation of the east and west vaulted stairwells and the large west vaulted chamber to some four meters in depth where the fragmented Latin inscription was unearthed. The Central Arch was explored and on the temple southeast, the outer east wall, the southeastern double engaged corner column, and the Inter-Columnar Wall were defined. All of the factors combine to suggest the Temple south to have been a three-storied structure. Of particular interest, however, is the discovery of the upper courses of a major east-west semi-circular wall opening into the central cella. This may clearly define the 'Adyton' and promises to be a major architectural component of the Great Temple.

1996 - Preliminary Conservation and Consolidation
(September-October 1996)

Now that all the temple columns have been located, we have undertaken their reversible reconstruction. Plans are now underway for consolidation of architectural elements that have been imperiled both from 2000 years of erosion as well as by recent excavations. The protective fencing that was placed around the temple in 1995 had to be extended for the site's protection in 1996.

Archaeological investigations of ancient structures of any kind are important in increasing our knowledge of the past, however they also produce serious side effects by exposing structures to the elements and vastly increasing the rate of decay. In order to slow this process, certain measures must be employed simultaneously with the excavation. With this in mind, a preliminary conservation survey of the excavated portions of the Temple has, at present, been carried out with a view to preserving and restoring various architectural features. In addition, continuous excavation requires that certain trenches be left opened for investigative purposes from season to season, creating safety hazards for the numerous visitors in a site such as Petra. In order to insure their safety it is important to partition off opened trenches and stairwells.

M. S. Joukowsky has gained the approval of the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to carry out this consolidation. Dr. Ghazi Bisheh, Director of the Department of Antiquities, is anxious to have this work carried out as soon as possible. The Jordanian Department of Antiquities has offered to help with the costs of supplies and manpower. In the director's absence, an experienced architect, May Shaer, and an experienced conservator, Zaki Aslan supervised the consolidation of the Great Temple architecture. Their involvement was fully supported by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.

Martha Sharp Joukowsky
Center for Old World Archaeology and Art and Department of Anthropology
Director, Brown University, Petra (Jordan) Great Temple Excavations

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