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Ian Straughn

Islamic Archaeology

Archaeology and Religion

Islamic Landscapes

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Posted at Mar 17/2007 06:07PM:
Elly: Petra is the Nabataean capital located in modern-day Jordan, between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. It is a well-protected site, located in a valley surrounded by high plateaus that create natural defenses. The site has a long history, with Edomite buildings as well as Byzantine churches. The site is primarily known as the capital city of the Nabataeans, Arab nomadic traders who controlled the trade routes of north Arabia. At its height from the mid-second century BCE to the first century CE, Petra was a metropolitan trading emporium. The major trade goods of the Nabataeans were incense, bitumen, and precious metals and minerals. The Nabataeans were experts at water collection, and with that came great skills in manipulating the rock, which is clear in the dramatic tomb facades surrounding the city. The city was quite wealthy and cosmopolitan, with many temples such as the Qasr al-Bint, the Temple of the Winged Lions, and the Great Temple. In CE 106, Nabataea was annexed into the Roman Empire as part of the Provincia Arabia. As trade routes shifted and the capital of the province was relocated to Bostra, Petra began to become more of a backwater. In the Byzantine period it was still a substantial city, but a number of earthquakes, in particular one in 363 and another in 551, substantially weakened the city. The city of Petra demonstrates the affluence and cosmopolitanism trade cities could reach. The Nabataeans had significant power, withstanding Roman pressure for some time before annexation. The process of Romanization is also very clear there, with many of the images and practices of Roman being adopted. Also, the Nabataeans are an example of a nomadic tribe transforming into a largely sedentary kingdom.

Posted at Mar 18/2007 12:19PM:
Elly: Spices! I forgot to put spices in the major trade goods. Asphalt was also another resource controlled and traded by the Nabataeans.

Posted at Mar 19/2007 09:25AM:
ian: Bitument in fact is essentially the same as asphalt.

The key points here are about the ability of Arab groups to establish importnat and powerful kingdoms as well as the relationship that emerges with empire as attested in the patterns of romanization displayed by the city itself.

Also keep in mind that with the advent of the incorporation of the Nabataean kingdom into the province of Arabia Petra would no longer be the capital. that shifted to the town of Bostra to the north in the Syrian Hawran.