arc Brown University Petra Excavations elephant elephant
  arc 1996-1997 Consolidation and Site Protection elephant elephant

With regards to site consolidation and preservation, this Brown University project at the Great Temple adheres to the Charter of Venice. We firmly believe in minimum intervention, the reversibility of any chemicals and materials used in consolidation, and the use of new stone which is discernible from the ancient ashlars. Exercising great care, we use modern technology, straps, cranes, and front loaders.

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, we have employed certain measures simultaneously with the excavation. With this in mind, a preliminary conservation survey of the excavated portions of the Temple, at present, has been carried out with a view to preserving and restoring various architectural features. From the beginning, the fundamental philosophy of the Petra Great Temple excavations has been the consolidation of the site and the re-erection of columns while the excavations are in progress. Exposure of the architectural features has been of serious concern, for the site is susceptible to erosive heavy rains and earth tremors. This was acknowledged by the incorporation of several additional consolidation procedures which have become part of our research design.

In 1996, an application was made to the World Monuments Fund who granted us an award expressly for site preservation, conservation and consolidation. The Great Temple Consolidation Project was made possible in part by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation through World Monuments Watch, a program of the World Monuments Fund. Briefly described, budget constraints forced us to be selective of what we could undertake. While portable artifacts were photographed in situ, architectural components have been removed to the lapidary to the west of site, and all the small finds were taken to the J. L. Burckhardt Center for detailed recording and analysis. After these artifacts had been fully documented, the artifacts for the catalog were deposited with the Department of Antiquities in Petra, and the remaining artifacts and smaller architectural fragments were registered and boxed on the site and reburied.

Now that all the temple columns have been located, we have undertaken their reversible re-erection. Using a tested mortar which in composition is similar to the original Nabataean mortar, we have consolidated 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. 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 to a site such as Petra. In order to insure their safety, we thought it essential to partition off opened trenches and stairwells.

In August 1996, the Great Temple project 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, was also anxious to have this work undertaken as soon as possible. An experienced architect, May Shaer, and experienced conservators, Zaki Aslan and Paul S. Fay supervised the plan for the consolidation of the Great Temple architecture, which has been carried out under the expert guidance of Dakhilallah Qublan and some 20 local workmen. Their workmanship has been fully supported by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. This consolidation work was carried out in the late fall of 1996 before the site was threatened by an earthquake and winter rains.

The following abbreviated listing includes measures we undertook for the preservation, restoration and safety considerations, beginning with the Propylaea Steps in the north.

    Propylaea Steps

  1. The step foundations have been partially consolidated by using mud mortar and small field stones prior to the restoration of the steps using new ashlar blocks.
  2. Vegetation located on the steps (and along the Colonnaded Street) has been removed in order to prevent damage by roots to surrounding structures.

    Lower Temenos

    West Exedra
  3. Gaps along the eastern portion of the walls have been filled with mud mortar and small stone wedges.
  4. The face of the walls has been treated by pointing with mud mortar and stone wedges.
  5. Gaps occurring between the column drums have been treated either by removing and re-placing the drums or by injecting mud mortar (grouting) between them.
  6. The drainage channel in front of the West Exedra has been covered with sand and has been backfilled.
  7. The east wall of the West Exedra has had the blocks removed and replaced, and this wall has been stabilized.
  8. The top of the West Exedra wall has been pointed.

    Western Lateral Stairway Between the Lower Temenos and the Temple Forecourt
  9. East and West Staircase Walls have been treated with pointing and missing ashlars have been replaced with new blocks.
  10. The staircase foundation has been treated by the filling of missing sections with mud mortar, and small field stones prior to the stair restoration with the original ashlars uncovered in the excavation. New ashlars had also to be quarried and cut to size for the missing treads. They were the set in place.
  11. A portion of the small hexagonal pavers of the Temple Forecourt at the top of the West Staircase were consolidated.

    Lower Temenos South — Hexagonal Pavement
  12. Hexagonal pavement tiles may be replaced after refilling the space between the capstones and the pavement level, however, further investigation of the Lower Temenos substructure is required in order to determine the type and weight of the fill.
  13. The ashlars forming the drain in front of the East-West Retaining Wall have been consolidated, and the drain has been backfilled.

    Upper Temenos

    Temple Forecourt
  14. Exposed ceramic drainage pipes were covered with sand and backfilled.
  15. The damaged hexagonal pavement in the forecourt has been covered with a thin layer of sand until such time as the pavement can be consolidated and restored. Further excavation is required in order to determine how to proceed with the consolidation of the pavement and its subsurface. (The use of geo-technic cloth to cover this area was precluded by our budget.)
  16. The central staircase foundation has been consolidated by using mud mortar and large pebbles. A safety barrier has been erected at the top the staircase.
  17. Exposed sections of the canalization system underlying the Forecourt and the extreme eastern side of the Forecourt have undergone consolidation of their crumbling edges by the use of mud and lime mortars. These exposed sections have also required safety barriers.

    Other Projects
  18. Gaps in the eastern walls of the exterior Western Walkway have been replaced with worked field stones bonded with mud mortar and pointing has reinforced the walls.
  19. The Upper Temenos Double Archway on the east leading from the Upper Temenos to the Lower Market had ashlars that with excavation were in danger of collapse. These ashlars have been consolidated with mud mortar.

    The Great Temple

    The Temple Porch
  20. The column drums have been removed and re-erected. No mortar has been placed between the drums, for in 1997 we will seek the advice of an architectural historian to determine the entasis of these drum elements. At present our re-erection of these drums is completely reversible.
  21. The Great Temple Stylobate has been protected from further exfoliation and deterioration by having its blocks pointed.
  22. The foundations of the Stylobate have been consolidated by using mud mortar and small field stones. This preceded the restoration of the stairs using existing worked stones.
  23. A staircase has been constructed from the Temple Forecourt to the Temple Porch, using ancient ashlars.

    Temple Pronaos
  24. Remnants of the fragile plaster stucco decoration on the exterior south-western column (Vartan Column) have been treated professionally with sealants and interior injection in order to forestall deterioration.
  25. Column drums have been removed and subsequently re-erected in their original positions and mud mortar has been injected between the drums.

    West Corridor
  26. Re-placement of the fallen ashlars recovered in the excavation to their original positions in the north-western wall.
  27. The north-western section of the West Corridor Wall has been treated by pointing in order to reinforce the wall, and to close large gaps between the ashlars.
  28. The East Anta Wall ashlars have been consolidated. And the East Anta Attic base has been supported and consolidated.
  29. Safety barriers have been erected around the exposed section.

    West Stairwell (rear)
  30. In order to insure safe access to the West Vaulted room a partial restoration of the stairs has been undertaken by the completion of the foundation level using mud mortar and small field stones, and the placement of stair runners found in the lapidary from previous excavation seasons. This project has as yet not been completed.
  31. The West Staircase wall with vaulted windows and door has been given a preliminary consolidation, so it now can withstand excavation from the exterior.

    West Adyton Room
  32. Gaps between stones in these walls have been filled with a combination of mud mortar, stone wedges and small field stones (pointing). The niche has been completed by placing flat core fill stones and mortar in order to reinforce the surrounding wall.
  33. Reinforcement of the remaining vault stones on the eastern side of the room, by their removal and replacement with a local mud mortar.
  34. There has been consolidation at the top of the exterior wall to the south of the West Stairway.
  35. Consolidation has been undertaken of the Upper West Stairway Platform and steps.

    Southeast Adyton
  36. Northern Wall of the heart shaped column (Suleiman) support niche (partial restoration). Ashlars have been numbered, removed and have been replaced in their original positions.
  37. The gaps above the designated ashlars have been cleared of debris and new ashlars have been inserted.
  38. A drainage trench has been constructed parallel to the southern wall of the Temple, north of the column niche to divert water.

    Central Arch
  39. The preservation of this arch required simultaneous work by both excavators and conservators in order to clear out debris and repair damage prior to further excavation of adjoining areas. Further study of the construction of the arch is still required by conservators along with architectural historians in order to proceed. Preliminary consolidation has been carried forth.

    Eastern Stairwell (rear)
  40. Restoration of the first two rows of the vaulted ceiling was required before the consolidation of the lower section of the surrounding walls was undertaken.
  41. The east interior wall has been given preliminary pointing from the top of the steps to the window in the East Wall overlooking the East Corridor.
  42. A safety barrier has been put in place to limit public access to the stairwell.
  43. There has been consolidation as can be seen looking from the East Corridor to the Neil and Joe Columns to the East Exterior Temple Wall window.
  44. Consolidation of the east interior wall elements as well as the pointing of the eastern platform.
  45. Consolidation of the Eastern Stairwell blocks (The stairways on both the east and the west have yet to be restored.)

    Temple Rear
  46. Re-erection of the rear temple columns Ric and Zbig has been undertaken. In the future the newly-erected upper drums will have to be consolidated as well. Damaged upper drum elements (those that have been exposed to the elements have been removed and have been substituted with drums in better condition. No mortar as yet has been used to consolidate the upper elements of these drums, but once excavation exposes their surfaces, consolidation will be necessary.

Conservation involves the analysis, treatment, and preservation of the Great Temple. It is hoped that we have helped to preserve this monument, for we have routinely maintained records of both the condition and treatment of the various sectors of this site that we have participated in recovering.
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