Petra

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The most famous image from the ancient settlement at Petra is the Treasury Building (left). However, Petra has more to offer the tourist and archaeologist alike.

About the Fourth Century B.C., a people called the Nabateans began a civilization that would flourish for the next few centuries and be well-known in Ancient Greece and Rome.

The city of Petra, known during its time of burgeoning as Raqmu, was between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, at a cross-roads between East and West and between powerful civilizations in the Middle East.

Petra is known for its architecture, carved into tall rock faces. The Treasury Building is very familiar to many people. Also cut into rock faces as part of the Nabatean settlement of the site were the well-known Urn Tomb, Palace Tomb, a theater, and the Deir, a monastery (below).

Another form of ingenuity found in excavations of the site is a sophisticated water distribution and storage system that would have been well advanced for its time, especially in a relatively arid part of the world. Water flowed to the city in pipes from diversion dams, reservoirs, and cisterns and enabled the residents to avoid flash floods and create, in effect, an oasis in the otherwise arid areas.

Also unearthed in excavations through the years are remains of city walls, temples, tombs, garden terraces, churches, and other public buildings. As well, archaeologists have unearthed remains of copper mines.

Petra was known in ancient times but, like Machu Picchu, passed into obscurity until relatively modern times. Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt "discovered" the site in 1812. More than a century later, in 1929, a team of archaeologists, a doctor, and a scholar completed an extensive survey of the site.

UNESCO in 1985 designated Petra a World Heritage Centre. The site is part of the Petra Archaeological Park, which is managed by Jordan's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

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