Archaeologists unearth massive new monument in Petra

Archaeologists unearth massive new monument in Petra
Archaeologists have discovered a massive monumental structure at the ancient city of Petra in southern Jordan.
2 min read
09 Jun, 2016
Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Petra each year [AFP]

An enormous new monument has been "hiding in plain sight" at the World Heritage site of Petra in southwestern Jordan, a recent study has found.

In the study, published in May by the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, archaeologists Sarah Parcak and Christopher Tuttle used high-resolution satellite imagery and aerial drone photography, as well as ground surveys to locate and document the structure.

According to their findings, the newly revealed structure is roughly as long as an Olympic-size swimming pool and twice as wide, situated only about half a mile (800 meters) south of the centre of the ancient city.

It consists of a 56-by-49-metre platform that encloses a slightly smaller platform originally paved with flagstones. The east side of the interior platform had been lined with a row of columns that once crowned a monumental staircase.

A small 8.5-by-8.5-metre building was centered north-south atop the interior platform and opened to the east, facing the staircase.

This enormous open platform, topped with a relatively small building and approached by a monumental facade, has no known parallels to any other structure in Petra.

It most likely had a public, ceremonial function, which may make it the second largest elevated, dedicated display area yet known in Petra after the Monastery.

"I'm sure that over the course of two centuries of research [in Petra], someone had to know [this site] was there, but it's never been systematically studied or written up," says Tuttle.

"I've worked in Petra for 20 years, and I knew that something was there, but it's certainly legitimate to call this a discovery."

As shown in the study, new discoveries of monumental structures continue to be made within and around the urban centre of Petra, even after two decades of fieldwork in the ancient city and its vicinity.

Likely founded in the mid-second century B.C., the ancient city of Petra served as the capital of the Arab tribe known as the Nabataeans. The site was essentially abandoned at the end of the Byzantine period in the seventh century A.D.

Its iconic buildings, carved from red sandstone, are a destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

The entire Petra Archaeological Park stretches over 264 square kilometres (102 sq. miles), of which only six square kilometres (2.3 sq. miles) include the ancient city's centre.