The Topography of Settlement in Petra’s City Center

The ancient city of Petra, the center of the Nabataean kingdom, is characterized by its extraordinary natural site and unusual cultural conditions. Petra’s architecture and topography reflect the transformation process of an originally nomadic society that underwent a fundamental shift as a result of its increasing economic and political importance.

In light of this background, a topographical analysis of settlement in Petra’s city center offers an important starting point for the description and interpretation of urban development. One important site, characterized by its proximity to some of Petra’s important buildings and an exposed location, is located south of the colonnade road whose axis forms the structure of the city center. The first excavations were carried out in 1981 by Nabil I. Khairy on the el-Katuteh ridge.

The current excavation project continues this work as part of a Jordanian-German cooperation between the University of Jordan in Amman and the Institute for Classical Archeology at the University of Mainz initiated in the Fall of 2011. In January and February of 2012 the first joint field season took place with students from both universities. The Petra Project shall also enable student exchange in the future. Aside from the excavation itself, methods of non-invasive prospection are intensively used to supplement the data newly gained from the excavation section and to determine the significance of the ridge as a topographical entity within the urban structure of the settlement. In this context, the unique constellation of the faculties and departments at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, offer excellent qualifications for future investigations. Cooperation with the Institute for Geosciences permitted a comprehensive approach using geophysical methods. In addition to acquiring archeological data, the project also serves the investigation of the physical traits of the relics that have been found as well as their interactions with the surrounding soil, which will help future excavations to plan more efficiently.

Thanks to the identification of remains uncovered during the excavation, the settlement of the area can be dated from, at the earliest, the end of the second century BCE up to the Byzantine era. In the later phase, the older structures, which were came into existence around the Common Era, had been converted and were still in use. A large excavated cistern and a road-like pavement leading in the direction of a previously excavated courtyard confirms the supposition that a larger architectural structure from the Nabataean period must have existed in this area. Future field seasons shall determine, among other things, the function and appearance of this site in greater detail.

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Project Term: Dec. 2011-Ongoing
Funded by internal university research funds and the Center for Intercultual Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz (ZIS)

Project Directors: Prof. Detlev Kreikenbom, Dr. Mustafa Koçak, Dr. Karl-Uwe Mahler, Dept. of Archeology, JGU Mainz

Cooperation Partners:
Prof. Dr. Nabil Khairy, University of Jordan (Amman)
Dr. David Jordan, Dept. of Geosciences, JGU Mainz