Petra Excavations Provide New Clues

the holy land guru holy land tour

the holy land guru holy land tour


Issue 57 of the World Archeology magazine (dated around April 2013)  reports on the work of archaeologists in Petra particularly in the examining of the tombs of which there are  about 600 carved into the walls of the cliffs.

Petra was the home of the Nabataeans to whom Herod the Great’s mother traced her lineage. Because of the speculation that Paul spent some time there after his conversion on the road to Damascus, Petra assumes interest for those following the Bible story.

The most famous among the Classical  tombs is the Khazneh (the Treasury) located in a dramatic position at the end of the Siq, the spectacular gorge that provides an entrance to the city from the East. This tomb which most likely belonged to the Nabataean king Aretas 4 even incorporates figures from Classical mythology such as the divine guardians Castor and Pollux and the fearsome Amazons. Excavations beneath the courtyard of the Khazneh by the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan revealed that this magnificent tomb was, in fact, carved above a row of preexisting tombs possibly belonging to generations of the same family.”

I remember seeing digging going on in front of the Treasury in February 2013. And now I understand what the digging was all about in front of the impressive Treasury tomb that you see when you first emerge into Petra after the walk through the Siq or gorge.

Tombs were Central To the Social Fabric of Ancient Petra Where

St Paul May Have Spent a couple of Years


The building of elaborate tombs was common in Petra and often indicated the status of the dead. Surprisingly the tombs  were originally plastered and painted.                     Those tombs were considered to be houses for the dead.  The line between the living and the dead seems to have been blurred in Petra.



A paragraph headed “Dining with the Dead.” Observes that “These commemorative activities clearly played an important social role for those living in Petra. They provided the opportunity to confirm one’s status within the society to strengthen family and /or tribal relations and to define a collective cultural identity. The prominence of the tombs in the urban landscape confirms their importance to life at Petra in the Nabataean period. Furthermore not only are tombs in the proximity of residential areas suggesting an interesting fluidity between the living and the space of the dead, but some triclinia attached to tombs even had burials in their walls. Thus the living really did dine with the dead allowing the deceased to symbolically partake in the feast and still hold an important place in society”

The reference to “triclinia” refers to the 3 sided couch/bench on which the ancients would recline when dining.

Dr Robert Grant has been traveling to the Middle East for more than 46 years and has been there more than 125 times as he takes groups of his friends there on holy land tours. As a result he has been designated the holy land guru by some much to his amusement.

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