arc Brown University Petra Excavations elephant elephant
  arc 2002 Field Campaign - Tenth Year elephant elephant



Aerial photographs of the Petra Great Temple at the close of the 2002 Excavations

The tenth season of excavations by Brown University archaeologists took place from June 15 until August 3, 2002, under the direction of Martha Sharp Joukowsky. Excavations continued in the following areas:

  • On the Great Temple Propylaeum in both the Propylaeum West and the Propylaeum East as well as a test trench in the Lower Temenos;
  • In the Upper Temenos southeast Plaza with a continued study of Room 1 in the East Perimeter Wall and with the re-examination of the enormous underground cistern located below the East Plaza;
  • To the southwest of the South Passageway in the Shrine Room into the so-called “Baroque Room,” and further west into two adjacent caves and rooms;
  • In the Small Temple where the layout and size of this structure was determined.

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

The north Propylaeum West lies 7.00 m east of the Qasr al-Bint Temenos Gate. The Propylaeum West has now been completely exposed in its entire 4.39 m width-by-23.66 m length. Fragments of elephant-headed capitals as well as column drums, arch ashlars and stylobate blocks were found in the debris covering the tile and limestone flooring of the West Cryptoporticus. Also revealed was a west entry into the Cryptoporticus across from the niche where the double betyls are positioned with a 3.80 m wide stairway from the Colonnaded Street.

West Propylaeum looking west

West Propylaeum looking east
Partial head of a male from the East Propylaeum

The East Propylaeum was partially explored 15.45 m north south-by-13.00 m east west. Here the build up for the Lower Temenos was revealed above the upper course of the East Cryptoporticus. From this approximate 2.00 m depth of deposit some 260 architectural fragments were registered—75 column drums (29%), 83 (32%) ashlar wall blocks, 27 (10%) elephant head fragments, and 17 (6.5 %) cornice fragments. The remaining architectural materials were comprised of hexagonal pavers fallen from the Lower Temenos, elephant head capital motifs including eggs and tongues, helices, darts, and other capital elements with bead and reel designs. One extraordinary find was the fragmented life-sized male head finely sculpted in white limestone (infra). This deposit of collapse clearly demonstrates the collapsed elements of the colonnade that fronted to Great Temple precinct on its north.

In the Lower Temenos, some 3.00 m south of the Propylaeum Stairway, an excavated test trench recovered a major intersection of the Great Temple’s canalization system with a main north south artery and two east west channels.

In the Upper Temenos east, a second entry into the cistern was exposed with on the west side of the East Plaza adjacent to the west wall of the West Walkway. Inside the cistern a test trench was excavated to bedrock of 5.17 m, and the cistern dimensions are 7.80 m-by- 8.50 m or 327.64 m3. North of the cistern was found the remains of a channel extending 35.30 m to the north to join with the artery found under the hexagonal pavement in the east Great Temple Forecourt.

Also in the Upper Temenos East Perimeter Wall Room 1 had been consolidated to undertake further excavation. Found in the fill removal was a bedrock stairway leading to the rock cut shelter excavated in 2001.

Based on what we knew about the partially recovered South Passageway Shrine, we completed its excavation and found the room to measure 5.64 m north south-by-3.87 m east west. To our surprise, a newly recovered west doorway led into an adjacent room measuring 4.50 m north south-by-3.67 m east west. Here was the massive wreckage of extensive remains of an incredible discovery—a room filled with delicately designed painted and gilded plaster that had collapsed from the ceiling and the walls. We have named this the “Baroque Room.” These finds are remarkable because, heretofore, comparable quantities of such an array of decorative materials have not been found in Nabataean contexts. Based on the fact that a Nabataean coins and pottery were found, the decorative canon can roughly be dated to the first century CE. This decorative material has been removed and will be restored during the 2002 fall.

Baroque Room Collapse
Baroque Room Collapse
The Residential Area with the two caves behind, looking south
Mother-of-pearl Dolphin found in the Cave Complex

Baroque Room Collapse

Just west of the Baroque Room is a small above ground cistern measuring 3.03 m east west-by-3.80 m north south. And in a “Residential Area” of two caves built onto with extensive architectural units—including columns and arched walls, were recovered masses of unpainted and figuratively painted Nabataean ceramics ranging in dates from the first century BCE to the first and second centuries CE. Although Cave 1 interconnects with Cave 2, at this point in our investigations, we cannot ascertain if or how they were integral to the Great Temple precinct, although it is clear that they were in use at the same time.

The Residential Area with the two caves behind, looking south

As far as we know this is the first discovery of caves and architectural units being built in conjunction with a civic structure.

Catalog Registry

As far as the Catalog registry of Great Temple artifacts, approximately 74 coins were unearthed as well as a dozen whole vessels and 12 figurines. There were six bone implements, six complete lamps and two shell pieces, one of which is a lovely carved dolphin Mother-of pearl decorative piece.

Mother-of-pearl Dolphin found in the Cave Complex

One complete reassembled elephant head Cat. No. 02-S-42, part of an elephant headed capital was unearthed as well as 22 metal implements and two elegantly painted stucco pieces.

The Small Temple

The Small Temple lay out was defined and it was found to measure approximately 13 meters square. One of many important inscriptions was unearthed, shown below. Other inscriptions found in this Roman Imperial cult building were also reconstructed with the result that this structure was in use from the rule of the Emperor Trajan in first century CE until that of Elagabalus (CE 218-222) in the third century.


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 columns and the pointing of walls. Naif Zaban was involved in the puzzle of fitting together the 5000 marble fragments from the Small Temple and their conservation and Ulrich Bellwald removed the Baroque Room decorative plaster and will serve as its conservator.



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