Nestled amid the sandstone valleys and cliffs of southern Jordan, the Nabataeans built Petra as their capital more than 2,000 years ago. This nomadic group were traders of frankincense and myrrh, and thier kingdom spanned from Damascus to modern day Saudi Arabia. The Nabataeans ruled over the area for several centuries before eventually being annexed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 106.

At the heart of the ancient capital lies a wide, half-mile long colonnaded boulevard. Surrounding this artery were the key institutions and monuments that facilitated daily life in the bustling metropolis. These included luxurious pools and gardens, an elegant fountain, and a grand royal audience hall.

At the end of this main street is Petra’s “Sacred Quarter,” which features three temples. The first is Qasr al-Bint, a well-preserved state shrine to the chief Nabataean god Dushara. The second is more enigmatic and called the Great Temple. The third is the Temple of the Winged Lions, probably built to honor the goddess al-Uzza.

The Temple of the Winged Lions is a large sacred complex with an ascending staircase, a grand entrance flanked by columns, and an inner cultic chamber with a raised podium. While most of the columns had Corinthian-style capitals, the dozen columns surrounding the main podium were adorned with the unique “winged lion” capitals that give the monument its modern name.

The temple’s spiritual focus was likely a statue or an unadorned standing stone, representative of the goddess al-Uzza, that was set atop the podium and around which priests and devotees would circle. The walls and columns of the temple’s inner sanctum were brightly painted with floral and figurative designs, while small recesses and niches surrounding the podium held offerings and idols emblematic of the goddess. Thought to have been built by the Nabataeans during the first century AD., the temple continued to be used well into the Roman period and was abandoned following the devastating earthquake that struck Petra in A.D 363.

Site Development :

Central to the site as well as SCHEP’s work with the TWL team is the Cella, or inner area of the temple. SCHEP worked to preserve the central cultic podium, improve drainage, and stabilize columns in this part of the site.


SCHEP concentrated on the Southwest Quadrant of the Temple. Despite the beauty of the arches and the hours spent conserving and documenting the area, ultimately the structural integrity of the site had to come first and so the team, in consultation with ACOR, PDTRA, and the DOA decided that the area needed to be backfilled. The first step was to buttress, conserve, and stabilize the standing architecture and rubble slope. The team deposited and compacted more than 130 cubic meters of soil. They created a buttress of sand backs that extends along the layers of rubble stone along with other layers of overlay. These efforts also allow for improved rainwater drainage.

Another key element of all SCHEP sites is making them more accessible to visitors via pathways and signage. To this end, SCHEP worked to develop pathways throughout the temples and surrounding areas. Another key addition is a sign down on the Roman Road that allows passersby to view a projection of what the temple would have looked like at during heyday. 

SCHEP Support:

Capacity Building

SCHEP has worked to support and enhance the advanced skillsets already possessed by the local TWL team. SCHEP focused particularly on the issue of documentation, including the Lapidarium and drawing and photography of walls at the site.

Training for TWL and PDTRA also focused on emergency conservation which allowed the participants to apply their theoretical knowledge in the backfilling of the Southwest Quadrant and Cella, as well as other projects that arose in this stage.

Job Creation

The project created nearly 80 employment opportunities over the course of the SCHEP-funded work and also made the important step of creating a worker database in order to ensure equity in the hiring process.

Tourism and Economic Development

Lying at the heart of Petra, the Temple of the Winged Lions has never had any trouble attracting visitors. The TWL team has worked to develop a unique, educational, and entertaining experience for visitors. The Experience Petra program gave students and tourists the opportunity to physically engage in the day to day activities happening on site: sifting through sand, washing pottery, cleaning and mortaring a wall, and documenting via drawing and photography. This program was immensely popular, particularly with school age children.

The TWL staff also worked to develop relationships with tour guide associations, local schools and universities, and other organization to increase traffic to the site.


Nearly 300 students participated in the Experience Archaeology program, put in practice by SCHEP, TWL, PDTRA, and the Ministry of Education. Hailing from eight different schools throughout Jordan, including Ayla, Bayt Ras, Busayra, Ghawr as Safi, Madaba, Bir Madkhour, Wadi Mousa, Umm al Jimal, and Wadi Ramm, students made the trip to TWL to learn about structure the temple. These students, aged 10-17, left with new appreciation of the temple and heritage in Jordan, hopefully encouraging them to become stewards of their heritage in the future.

For some more information on the achievements of the TWLCRM Initiative and its support by USAID SCHEP, see ACOR’s past newsletters for Winter 2017Winter 2016, and Winter 2015.

Host Community:

While TWLCRM team members primarily hail from Umm Seyhoun, the village created to house the families who were moved out of Petra when it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985, the TWLCRM Initiative has placed priority on providing training opportunities to all of Petra’s surrounding communities, including Wadi Musa, Bayda, Dalagha, Rajif, and villages in Wadi Araba. Recruitment and training was gender-blind and emphasized the need for establishing merit and experience-based employment in the cultural resource management fields.   

The TWLCRM Initiative in Petra is unique for the high level of female participation. To highlight this success, SCHEP worked to support these women and document their sucess. We invite you to help us celebrate the Women for Heritage by watching this video


For some more information on the achievements of the TWLCRM Initiative and its support by USAID SCHEP, see ACOR’s past newsletters for Winter 2017, Winter 2016, and Winter 2015.