One would think that a World Heritage site like Petra, Jordan and its status as a “new seven wonders of the world” would have meant that the site had been completely explored, but a new site was recently discovered about a half-mile south of the city center and the study of this new monument “hiding in plain site” was detailed last month in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
Petra’s beauty just got more pronounced with new monument
The site has been well-explored and studied since its discovery by Johann Burckhardt in 1812, but apparently a lot of that looking was focused on the city center and likely thousands have trod over the new monumental find near the center of the city.
Researchers, perhaps to save face, have long believed and said that there was something out there but to find something in plain sight is surely a touch embarrassing.
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“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,” Christopher Tuttle, the director of the Council of Overseas Research Centers, told National Geographic at the time of publicaiton. “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.”
Drones have proven for some time that they are a lot more useful than simply blowing the hell out of militants around the world and this discovery was made using both drones and satellite imagery. That work was done by Tuttle and Archeologists Sarah Parcak.
Parcak and “space archeology”
The monument itself is huge; a multi-level platform measures 184 feet by 161 feet at its base and stairs then lead to another 28 by 28 foot building that was built above the much larger first level.
Somewhat strangely, the stairs of this monument do not face the city center like all other buildings in the city. This is a bit puzzling but it is what it is. Archeologists are confident that the building served a ceremonial purpose.
“This monumental platform has no parallels at Petra or in its hinterlands at present,” wrote the researchers in conversation with the UK’s Guardian.
Petra was home to a tribal group in what is now modern day Jordon caleed the Nabataeans who began construction about 150 BC and vacated over 800 years later for reasons unknown.
It was Parcak whose knowledge of satellite imagery made the find possible and her work has largely been called “space archeology” a technique that uses satellite imaging to find sites in the thick jungles of Central America (Mayan) and now Petra. This technology called Lider has essentially opened a new field in archaeology.
This same technology has been “pointed” at areas around Egypt’s pyramids in the hopes of finding secret rooms that have avoided discovery by traditional “digging” archaeologists according to report by the Christian Science Monitor’s Lucy Schouten.
“This technology is not about what you find – but how you can think about things like settlement scale and ancient human-environment interactions more broadly,” Parcak told The Guardian. “What happens when you can truly map the near-surface buried features for an entire site? I’m excited, but we need to think about the implications of having all this technology at our fingertips so we can use it responsibly.”