arc Brown University Petra Excavations elephant elephant
  arc 2001 Field Campaign - Ninth Year elephant elephant

The ninth 10-week season of excavation by Brown University archaeologists at the Petra Great Temple took place from June until August 2001, and helped us clarify the architecture of the precinct.  Eight trenches and two special projects were excavated with startling results.

Excavation Staff and Visitors

Site Plan showing 2001 ten trenches and special projects of the Great Temple excavations.
Aerial photograph of the Great Temple, looking south.

The members of the 2001 Brown University team were Martha Sharp Joukowsky, Director; Artemis A.W. Joukowsky, photographer; Deirdre G. Barrett, Brown Graduate Student and cataloger, Joseph J. Basile, Associate Director; Brian A. Brown, Assistant Director and surveyor; John Hagen, artist; Sara Karz Reid, Small Temple supervisor, Brown University graduate student who will write her dissertation on her excavations of the Small Temple; Emma S. Libonati, Senior archaeologist; and Monica Sylvester and Donna D’Agostino database managers.  I was fortunate to have five extraordinary Brown University undergraduate students who were indispensable for the recovery of the Great Temple architecture: Christian Cloke, Emily C. Egan, José I. Fusté, Amanda Henry and Darryl B. Sneag.  Fresco and mortar samples were taken for analysis to provide us with their original chemical constituents by May Shaer and Stephan Simon of the GTZ (German Technical Research Institute).  Dakhilallah Qublan, our expert foreman and Great Temple restorer, again served a crucial role in the success of these excavations.  He oversaw the 50 workmen who aided us.


I have been truly fortunate to receive the support of Brown University and the Brown University Undergraduate Teaching Assistantship program and many sponsors for the 2001 excavations.  These include major funding from the Replogle Foundation, the Manchester Growth Fund, Donald E. Besser, Chairman, Julie Chrystie Webster, Claire J. Henderson with a matching grant from CIGNA, and W. Chesley Worthington. The Joukowsky Family Foundation has most generously underwritten the expenses of site consolidation and restoration.  H.E. Prince Ra’ad Bin Zeid helped provide us with helicopter support of the Seventh Squadron of the Royal Jordanian Air Force for aerial photographs.  I owe all of these supporters a tremendous debt for their help.

Excavation Results

Earlier excavations in the West Propylaeum had brought forth elephant headed capitals of the Lower Temenos, and this season another, the best preserved of all was brought to light—one elephant headed capital was completely preserved.  Continuing excavations in the West Propylaeum also revealed double limestone betyls found in a niche.  These sacred aniconic (non-figurative) representations of Nabataean deities are in remarkably pristine condition and were attached in the niche with plaster.  Measuring approximately 50 cm in height, 21 cm in width, and they are approximately 9 cm in thickness at their slightly rounded tops. 

Propylaeum west showing the in situ betyls (Nabataean sacred standing stones), looking east.
Propylaeum west, fragmented figure of a male.
South Corridor, stucco lion head found in the 2001 excavations.
East Plaza room with high arches in the East Perimeter Wall—note the trough at the bottom of the east arch.
East Plaza, a team member lowering himself into the cistern.
Aerial Photograph of the Great Temple site, looking south, also showing the position of the Small Temple to the lower right.
Small Temple overview, looking south.
Small Temple inscription reading “CAESAR.” This is one of 400 inscribed fragments found in the Small Temple.

A limited test trench in the West Propylaeum revealed new components about the stratigraphy of this area and confirmed that the earliest wall of the Propylaeum was a terrace wall that separated the precinct from the main thoroughfare of the central city.  At the close of this year’s work, the architectural scheme of the West Propylaeum had been clarified, and its overall dimensions assessed.  

Preliminary excavations in the East Propylaeum confirmed that it was constructed in a similar order as that of the West Propylaeum with some modifications due to the fact its destruction pattern slightly differed from that of the west.  Evidence suggests that the east cryptoporticus was accessed from an as yet unexcavated doorway from the Colonnaded Street.  Excavations under the Lower Temenos’ West Triple Colonnade were also undertaken in the cryptoporticus constructed under the West Triple Colonnade to a depth of 6.00 m where limestone flooring was found in an excellent state of preservation.

The Upper Temenos excavations concentrated on the East and South Perimeter Walls and the South Passageway where more of the chiseled away bedrock escarpment came to light.  In the substantial clearance of the temple surround, a partially-excavated chapel with frescoed walls, a hexagonal pavement and an empty cult niche were recovered as part of the installation of the South Perimeter wall.  The chapel anteroom had considerable amounts of collapsed roof tiles some of  which were left in situ.  We expect to undertake consolidation of the frescoed walls and to continue excavation in the chapel to the west so that its overall dimensions might be determined.

Also in the Upper Temenos east, was a subterranean cistern measuring 8.50 m-by-7.80 m and partially excavated by a test trench to its original depth of 5.88 m from its roof—in toto it would have held 390 cubic meters of water.  In its interior were the remains of two arches and a massive support column carved out of bedrock. Above this cistern was a bedrock chamber with what appears to have been a domestic installation, with a chiseled out bedrock basin and an oven.  There were considerable amounts of ceramics found associated with these features. 

The partially collapsed East Perimeter Wall arch was removed so that excavations could continue below it.  Found was a small room with high arched niches, and the later installation of an oven and a trough.  Additionally a substantial cache of Nabataean utilitarian wares was found here associated with an oven.

The only large project remaining to be undertaken in the Great Temple this season (it has now been completely excavated) was to clear the South Corridor of collapsed debris.  This project revealed the South Corridor wall in its entirety with exquisitely stucco-embellished walls.  Between the wall segments are three doorways leading into the structure from the south, and an interior doorways which led into the east and west corridors and a central doorway which accessed the temple’s Central Arch.  The canalization system under the Great Temple was also found to continue under the flooring of the South Corridor into the Central Arch.  Most surprising here was the recovery in the collapse of two massive sculpted stucco lions which must have been positioned opposite each other above the central doorway leading into the South Corridor.  

Sara Karz Reid sampled various marble artifacts and architectural elements for testing to determine their origins.  Besides the artifacts mentioned above, recovered were 21 coins, 10 cataloged lamps, 23 more elephant head components, 14 bone pins and one bone spatula, and the stunning small limestone sculpture of a youthful male (15.84 cm in height) with his torso, right leg, and part of his left forearm.  Another sculpture consists of a marble base from a small statue with a booted foot trimmed with a panther head.  In the stucco catalog were 11 fragments with graffiti or with gold overlay.  Our databases continue to swell with additional architectural fragments and considerable amounts of cultural materials.

Small Temple

This season also saw continued excavations of the Small Temple under the supervision of Sara Karz Reid who recovered approximately 400 marble fragments inscribed in Greek, Latin and Nabataean.  The dimensions of this edifice were also redefined.  Tentatively it would appear that this small building might have served as a Roman Imperial cult building or hieron.  Additional excavations will hopefully complete the definition of this structure that are programmed for 2002, and study of the recovered inscriptions is currently underway.


Special visitors to the Great Temple in 2001 included Jane Taylor, Hana Asfour, Lema and Hana Alireza and Nissa Ra’ad Al-Hussein, Stephanie Truesdell, Andrew Schwartz, Erika Schluntz (who wrote her Brown University dissertation on the Great Temple architecture) and Donna and Ron Henry.  These along with Misha and Jane Joukowsky and Francesca Bennett volunteered their services to the excavation as did Barrett and Mary Hazeltine.  Brown University Trustee Duncan MacMillan and his wife, Niven, also paid us a visit as did 13 intrepid Brown University Travelers.  Professor Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, made his annual visit to the excavations as did Ali Jabbri, artist.  Filmmakers David and Michael Udris created a special documentary of Petra and the Great Temple site. We were interviewed by Quentin Cooper of the BBC’s “The Material World,” a program that aired on July 20.  ART a NOVA  affiliate who are producing a film on Petra were also on site to interview us.

In conclusion…

We are indebted to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities for their help in making this season a tremendous success, most particularly Fawwaz Kraysheh, Director.  Assigned to us this year were Hani Fallhat and Dia’eddin A. Tawabeh as Representatives of the Department of Antiquities.  But it is to Suleiman Farajat that we owe an enormous debt for his continued interest, logistical acumen and moral support of our excavations.

I also wish to acknowledge the support of The American Center of Oriental Research, Pierre Bikai, Director, and all the members of the staff who so ably helped us during the excavation.

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Copyright© 1999 Brown University