Thursday, November 22, 2012

Project Background: Petra Northridge Project

Petra Northridge Project

Petra (Photo credit: amerune)
Ever since its rediscovery by western scholars in the early 19th century, research on the world-famous site of Petra has understandably focused on its extraordinary monuments: the magnificent rock- tomb cut facades, the temples, the main theater, and, more recently, its Byzantine churches.

But this focus has provided a rather unbalanced picture of this great city, particularly about the lives of ordinary people in Petra. The present project intends to address this issue through a two pronged strategy of excavation on Petra’s North Ridge: 1) excavation of shaft tombs to recover biological and artifactual evidence, and 2) excavation of apparent domestic structures to learn about the non-elite residents of the city.

The North Ridge is pock-marked by at least fifty rock-cut shaft tombs, apparently dating to the Nabataean period (1st centuries B.C. and A.D.). Although most tombs appear to have been robbed, previous excavation of two such tombs near the North Ridge Church by Megan Perry suggests that they still contain much bioarchaeological evidence such as human bones and many artifacts (e.g., fragments of pottery). Excavation and analysis of these remains should provide many insights into the population of Petra in this period.

The western end of the North Ridge contains the Temple of the Winged Lions and three Byzantine churches, all extensively excavated since mid-1970s. The eastern ridge, which has never witnessed any excavation, is covered by wall lines and other visible structures, apparently domestic structures post-dating the shaft tombs, i.e. after the 1st century A.D. Surface artifacts suggest that these structures likely date from the 4th to the 6thcenturies, roughly contemporary with the churches to the west. Excavation of these structures should provide many insights into the socio-economic life of Byzantine Petra, an era recently illuminated by discovery of the famous 6th century “Petra Papyri” from one of the churches on the ridge.

Working as a team, we will use this gathered knowledge to extract the evidence crucial our principal research goals. We will also recover more of the history of a great international city.
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