A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Architecture Analysis Offers New Clues to Petra’s Culture

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


LA PALMA, TENERIFE—Statistical analysis of the measurements of the monuments, temples, and tombs of Petra, the ancient city carved from rock in modern-day Jordan, suggests that the Nabateans oriented their buildings so that the sun would highlight them during certain times of the year. “The facades of Petra are not only beautiful in themselves, but they also show something additional,” archaeoastronomer Juan Antonio Belmonte of the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands told National Geographic News. For example, during the winter solstice, lights and shadows are produced around a sacred podium in Ad Deir, the Monastery, by the setting sun. “These [structures] are such huge marvels of human ability created with a sense of beauty, which is related to the sky,” Belmonte said.