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.
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
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 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.
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 2017, Winter 2016, and Winter 2015.
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
2016, and Winter