Friday, May 06, 2005

Lecturer says Nabateans fortified Petra's Great Temple to Fend off Romans

The Daily Star : "'We now know that the Great Temple represents one of the major archaeological and architectural components of metropolitan Petra, Jordan,' lecturer AUB Trustee and Brown University Professor Emerita Martha Joukowsky said recently at an illustrated lecture at the American University of Beirut Museum.

What is interesting is that some carvings in the temple columns have given archaeologists an insight into the Nabataean culture which was dominant at the time of the temple's construction.

'Interestingly, beautiful and unusual elephant heads were elaborately carved into the columns of the triple colonnades, brilliantly showcasing the wrinkled skin and relatively small ears of the Indian elephant,' she said. 'The appearance of this exotic animal in a major building in the Nabataean capital is yet another indication of the wide-ranging imagination and eclectic tastes of this remarkable people.'

At about the first century A.D., the city went through a secular phase, leading archaeologists and historians to believe that the temple was transformed into an 'agora' where people would meet for business, marketing or gossip. Alternatively, the temple may have served as a law court or royal audience hall, seating 600 people.

Later, in the second century A.D., Joukowsky said that the temple underwent an attack by Roman general Cornelius Palma, thus causing the temple to be transformed into a defendable fortress. Nearly two centuries later, in 363 A.D., the temple suffered through a series of earthquakes, which finally led to its destruction and 'disappearance beneath desert sands.' "
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