Petra Garden and Pool-Complex Excavations

Project: Research project

Project Details


With the support of the National Science Foundation, Dr. Bedal and her colleagues will conduct two seasons of excavation in the garden and pool-complex of Petra, Jordan. The site's monumental scale and central location, at the heart of the city, suggest that it was part of the ceremonial, economic and political center of the city, and therefore must have been of some importance to the structure and organization of Petra during the Classical Nabataean (1st c. BCE -1st c. CE) and Roman periods (2nd-4th c. CE). Bedal's identification of the site as a garden (and not a marketplace as previously believed) during preliminary investigations in 1998 prompts a re-examination of some of the long-held perceptions of Petra's city center functioning primarily

as a commercial area. The closest contemporary parallels in the Hellenized East and the Early Roman Empire, most often associated with royal complexes and imperial cults, demonstrate that ornamental gardens are popular vehicles for political metaphor. The planting of trees and other flora, in combination with grandiose architecture and impressive displays of water, symbolize wealth, power and prestige. Strongly influenced by the processes of acculturation, and despite a severe shortage of water resources, the Nabataeans created a garden paradise in their desert city. Dr. Bedal's research aims to address the role of politics and power in the creation of the Petra Garden & Pool-Complex and to shed light on the social and political organization of the whole of Petra's city center.

As the only example of a Nabataean garden and one of the few known archaeologically in the region, the Petra Garden & Pool-Complex offers a unique opportunity to learn about the garden traditions of the Hellenistic-Roman Near East, and specifically of the Nabataeans. Its relatively pristine state of preservation and unique context makes it an ideal site for testing methods of

garden archaeology and developing theories on meaning and function. Utilizing a combination of traditional excavation strategies, geophysical explorations with ground-penetrating radar, soils and archaebotanical analysis, artifact analysis, hydraulic studies, and architectural reconstruction, the overall design and historical development of the garden site may be determined and the

ancient activities and engineering skills assessed. As a unique and undocumented garden site, the investigation of the Petra Garden & Pool-Complex will not only contribute to the study of Petra and Nabataea, but will advance the understanding of the processes of Hellenization and Romanization, and contribute to the development of methodology in the field of garden archaeology.

In addition to utilizing the skills and knowledge of trained specialists the Petra Garden & Pool-Complex Excavation provides field experience to graduate and undergraduate students pursing careers in archaeology, and other related fields. Students have an opportunity to work closely with the more experienced archaeologists and specialists and to receive hands-on experience with field methods and processing archaeological materials. Finally, the project promotes cooperative research and training between Americans and Jordanians, providing a mutually beneficial learning and cultural experience for all participants.

Effective start/end date7/1/036/30/06


  • National Science Foundation: $89,889.00


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