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Current Excavations & Projects in Petra


* Projects are listed in ascending chronological order

Umm al-Biyara & Aslah excavations (2012)
The International Khubtha Tombs Project (IKTP) (2010)
Jabal Haroun
Chapel of Obodas in Wadi al-Neir 
Al We段ra & Habis castles
Wadi Mataha expedition
Ba男a excavations
Temple of the Winged Lions
Petra Great Temple
Petra Papyri
The Petra Garden and Pool Complex
Sacred Area Around Qasr al-Bint
Shaqarat Masiad Neolithic Excavation & Survey Project
International Wadi Farasa Project
Traditional Water Techniques, Cultural Heritage for a Sustainable Future (PNT)
Beidha Documentation Project
Khazne Courtyard Excavation
North Ridge Project - Nabataean Tombs and Domestic Complexes

** Kindly note that the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ) publications are currently not available online and can be accessed at the Department of Antiquities (DoA), Amman.

For a detailed bibliography on Petra and the Nabataeans:

  • Crawford, Gregory A.  Petra and the Nabataeans, a Bibliography.  2003.  The Scarecrow Press, Inc.


Jabal Haroun Excavation: (information provided by the Conservation Branch of the Petra Archaeological Park)
Excavation Date: 1998-present day
Conducted by: the University of Helsinki under the direction of Prof Jakko Frozen

The focus of investigations of the FJHP is the Byzantine 5-7th century AD monastic/pilgrimage centre most probably dedicated to Aaron. The site is located on a high plateau below the summit of mountain of Aaron (Jabal Haroun), southern Petra.

Chapel of Abodas: (information provided by the Conservation Branch of the Petra Archaeological Park)
Excavation Date: 1999-present day
Conducted by: Kiel University supported by Ministry of Foreign Affairs-France, under the direction of Laurent Tolbek

A niche was found where the head of Obodas was placed. On the outside architectural structures (dams, water, pool) and hydraulic systems were found.


AL We段ra/Habis: (information provided by the Conservation Branch of the Petra Archaeological Park)
Excavation date: 1987-present day
Conducted by: Italian Expedition Florence University

The archaeological Excavations, conducted by the Italian team from the University of Florence at the fortress of al-We段ra, added much to our knowledge about the strategy of fortification in the region during the Middle Ages.


Wadi Mataha :(information provided by the Conservation Branch of the Petra Archaeological Park)
Excavation date: 1997-present day
Conducted by: the American Expedition Brigham Young University/W.MT

The goal of the excavations was to expand our understanding of the early natufian occupation of the site.

Ba男a :(information provided by the Conservation Branch of the Petra Archaeological Park)
Excavation date: 1997-present
Conducted by: Berlin University under the direction of Prof Hans Gebel And Dr. Angolf

Ongoing excavations if the Late pre pottery Neolithic period B

Temple of the Winged Lions
Excavation date: 1973 - present
Conducted by: the American Expedition to Petra, under the direction of Philip C. Hammond

The American Expedition to Petra has completed 20 seasons of excavations at the Temple of the Winged Lions in Petra.  This is the longest series of excavations to have been conducted on the site, spanning some 27 years.  The Temple is a complex of related facilities, including a worship centre, residential quarters, and workshops, a combination never before seen in Nabataean religious installations.  The workshops included a Painters Workshop, a Metalworking Workshop, an Oil Workshop, a Marble Workshop, and even a Souvenir Workshop.

Following the recovery of materials such as the 'Eye Idol' and feline decorated capitals, the Temple is believed to have been dedicated to the goddess 'Allat.  These materials as well as earthquake data tell us that the Temple dates back to the "fourth day of 'Ab"- August 19 A.D. 28 and was destroyed in the earthquake of 363 A.D.  The Temple is the most closely dated structure in the Middle East.

Reports on the excavations were published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 32 (1988); volume 38 (1994); volume 42 (1998).




Excavation date: 1988 - present day
Conducted by: Basel University under the patronage of the Swiss-Liechtenstein Foundation for Archaeology Abroad

Al-Zantur is a Nabataean residential area south of the Great Temple.  Excavations have uncovered an extended mansion with outstanding interior decoration, mural paintings and painted gilded stucco.  For the first time in Petra, a residential complex with a Pompeian-like impression provided insight into the domestic architecture and way of life of the Nabataean urban middle-class between the late 1st century B.C. and 5th century A.D.

Excavations have revealed Nabataean ceramics, cooking pots, lamps, and glass allowing the team to develop a comprehensive chronology of these items.

Reports on the excavations were published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 34 (1990); volume 35 (1991); volume 37 (1993); volume 38 (1994); volume 39 (1995); volume 41 (1997); volume 46 (2002).


Petra Great Temple
Excavation date: 1993 - present day
Conducted by: Brown University, under the direction of Martha Joukowsky

The Great Temple represents one of the major archaeological and architectural components of central Petra.  Located to the south of the Colonnaded Street and southeast of the Temenos Gate, this 75602 m precinct is comprised of a Propylaeum, a Lower Temenos, and monumental east and west Stairways which in turn lead to the Upper Temenos the sacred enclosure for the Temple proper.

The Petra Great Temple was first explored by R. E. Brnnow and A. von Domaszewski in the 1890s; but it was W. Bachmann, in his 1921 revision of the Petra city plan, who postulated the existence of a "Great Temple."  No structures were evident before the Brown University 1993 excavations under the direction of Martha Sharp Joukowsky.  The building underwent many phases of use from the time when it was first built in the 1st Century B.C. to its collapse due to an earthquake in the 4th century A.D., and although its exact function remains unclear, the name given to it in 1921 has remained.
The Great Temple is one of the key sites in the Nabataean Petra and demonstrates the mix of cultures that passed through Petra, seen in the use of elephant heads, frescos, and Hellenistic style carved pilasters and capitals.

Major finds: local canalisation system, Asian elephant head-decorated capitals, thousands of architectural fragments, coins, limestone facial frieze elements, lamps, Roman glass, and ceramics which include figurines, Nabataean bowls, small cups, and juglets, elaborate floral friezes, acanthus-laden limestone capitals.  In 1998, mural paintings and painted and gilded stucco similar to those of the al-Zantur mansion were found in the corridors of the Great Temple.  Also found was part of an inscription, a partially restored Nabataean plate, a bone pin, and Tyche head.

Reports on the excavations were published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 42 (1998); volume 43 (1999); volume 44 (2000); volume 45 (2001); volume 46 (2002); volume 47 (2003); volume 48 (2004); volume 49 (2005).


Petra Papyri
Discovery date: 1993.  Research and publication ongoing.
Team: American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), University of Helsinki, and University of Michigan

In 1993, the Petra Papyri were found in a room adjacent to the main Byzantine church of Petra (Petra Church).  The documents date from the 6th century and are private papers of a well-to-do family.  They are mainly financial documents concerning marriage, inheritance, sales, loans and disputes, but also documents connected with taxation.  The scrolls are written in Greek, the administrative language of the Byzantine Empire, though they contain a large number of Arabic place-names written in Greek letters, and one text includes three lines written in Latin.  They were apparently drawn up in Petra or its immediate surroundings, except for one contract composed in the city of Gaza.  The Petra Papyri are one of the most important finds of ancient documentary texts.

Of the approximately 140 Papyri originally found, not all could be saved and deciphered as they were carbonised (partially burned) in a fire that destroyed the Church around 600 A.D. 

Conservation on the Papyri, conducted by the University of Helsinki, took place in 1994-1995 and the first volume of the scrolls was published by ACOR in 2002.  Another two volumes of the Petra Papyri are scheduled to be published in 2007. 

Reports on the findings were published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 38 (1994); volume 41 (1997); volume 42 (1998).


The Petra Garden and Pool Complex
Excavation date:  1998 present day
Conducted by:  Leigh-Ann Bedal (Penn State University, Erie)

The archaeological record reveals that a number of small, domestic-type structures occupied the southern banks of Wadi Musa throughout the 1st century B.C.  Early in the reign of King Aretas IV (9 B.C. 40 A.D.), the area was transformed by extensive quarrying, the erection of sandstone monuments, and an elaborate hydraulic system that diverted, collected, and displayed water.

The Petra Garden and Pool Complex is located in the heart of Petra, on an expansive terrace on the southern slope, overlooking the city痴 main street and adjoining the Great Temple complex.  Archaeological investigations have revealed a monumental open-air pool (23 x 43 metres) with an island-pavilion at its centre and an adjoining garden terrace.  A comparative analysis of contemporary gardens supports an interpretation of the Petra Garden and Pool Complex as the recreational component of a larger royal complex, its origins found in the garden traditions of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia.

A number of features tree pits, pathways, pipelines, underground cistern, stone platforms revealed through subsurface survey (ground-penetrating radar) and excavations on the terrace support the premise that the site is a garden.  A flowerpot with perforations for aeration and drainage was found near a gravel pathway in 2005.  The analysis of carbonised botanical remains recovered from the garden soils identified domesticate species of tree crops, vines and fruits (olive, grape, fig, date, walnut), as well as cereals (barley and wheat) and legumes (lentils, peas, vetch).

The Petra Garden and Pool Complex exemplifies the extravagant use of water by the Nabataeans for purely aesthetic purposes.  Water transported to the site from the south via aqueducts and channels filled the larger pool and irrigated the plants of the expansive garden terrace through a complex system of pipelines and conduits.  The exploitation of water a precarious resource in any desert environment for recreational and display purposes is a prime example of conspicuous consumption that characterises the wealth and status of Petra during its classic period.

The garden and pool continued in use after the Roman annexation of Petra in A.D. 106, by which time the neighbouring Great Temple was converted into an odeion or bouleutereion.  It is likely that, within this context, the garden functioned as a public park much like the urban parks in contemporary Rome.  At this time a bridge to the island-pavilion was added; a reorganisation of the hydraulic system may represent a new approach to water consumption influenced by the Romans, whose rules about the use of natural resources differed from those of the desert Arabs.

A deep deposit of sediment above the pool floor indicates that the pool went out of use before the destruction of the pavilion and other structures as a result of the devastating earthquake of 363 A.D.  The remnants of later walls, evidence for the reuse of the hydraulic installations, and a raised field that occupies part of the earthen terrace, testify to the continued use of the site for agricultural purposes through the post-classical occupation of Petra and into the modern era.

Reports on the excavation were published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 43 (1999); volume 46 (2002); volume 47 (2003).


Sacred Area Around Qasr al-Bint
Project date: 1999 - present day
Conducted by: French Archaeological Mission in Petra, under the direction of Christian Aug and Fran輟is Renel, Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the help of IFPO.

Sacred area around Qasr al-Bint: 喪esearches on the Qasr al-Bint sacred area is part of a larger archaeological mission 詮rom Petra to Wadi Rum: Nabataeans and Arabs in South Jordan directed by Christian Aug.  Qasr al-Bint is the best preserved among the masonry-built temples in Petra.  The main altar, a large elevated platform in front of the temple, originally Nabataean, went through several transformations.  One important feature of the altar is the watertight cavity hollowed out on top and connected with an important system of channels and drains located under the paving stones of the courtyard.

The western edge of the court was cleared which revealed an impressive exedra, built in Roman times with a great curved recess in its centre, this monument probably collapsed from an earthquake in the 4th century A.D.  On top of its remains, a dwelling was built which was then subsequently destroyed in the 5th Century A.D.  A considerable amount of archaeological material was found, countless fragments of decoration and statues carved in both marble and sandstone.  Inscriptions show that the building was intended to honour Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, co-emperors of the Roman Empire from 161 to 169 A.D.  In April 2004 a beautiful marble portrait of Marcus Aurelius was discovered and is now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Amman.

The team also investigated an extensive Nabataean building, located on the eastern side of the temple and opening onto the sacred area through a monumental gate.  In the Nabataean period this building may have been devoted to some religious or official use and was also re-occupied in Late Roman times.

A new excavation is being planned for October-November (autumn) 2006.
A report on the Project was published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 46 (2002).


Shaqarat Masiad Neolithic Excavation & Survey Project
Excavation date: 1999 - present day
Conducted by: The Carsten Niebuhr Institute of Near Eastern Studies (University of Copenhagen), under the direction of Ingolf Thuesen

Shaqarat Masiad village is located approximately 13 kilometres north of Petra in the Nemelleh region and dates back to around 6,977 B.C.  Running since 1999, the team is excavating the site and so far has recovered items such as grinding tools and slabs, mortars and pestles, as well as various seashells, mother of pearl, and clay objects.

Excavations have uncovered a number of circular architectural units arranged in a cluster with two or three units each.  These buildings consisted mainly of locally available limestone and sandstone and the use of wooden construction that would also have been acquired locally.  Evidence of plaster and mud floors has also been found in Shaqarat Masiad.
Information taken from the Shaqarat Masiad Project website (

A report on the excavations was published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 49 (2005).


International Wadi Farasa Project
Project date:
2000 present day
Conducted by: Department of Antiquities (DoA), Association for the Understanding of Ancient Cultures (AUAC), under the direction of Stephan Schmid, and the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF)

Excavation is focused on the ancient structures within Wadi Farasa East, on the southeastern periphery of the ancient city of Petra.

The aims of the project, directed by Stephan Schmid, Professor of Archaeology at Paul-Valery University, Montpellier III (France), are to understand the functioning of one of the most prominent funeral complexes of the Nabataean capital.  Excavations revealed that rock-cut structures such as a richly decorated tomb and a splendid banqueting hall together with a two-storied and freely built entrance complex were interconnected through a huge peristyle courtyard.  The overall plan and organisation of this complex is clearly dependent on the luxury architecture of the Hellenistic and Roman Mediterranean.  Excavations also indicate that the Nabataean funeral complex was once richly decorated by wall paintings, polychrome marble slabs, and even heating installations going far beyond occasional visits in order to commemorate the deceased.

Reports on the project were published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 44 (2000); volume 45 (2001); volume 46 (2002); volume 47 (2003); volume 48 (2004); volume 49 (2005).


Beidha Documentation Project
Project date:
2003 present day
Conducted by: American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), under the direction of Patricia M. Bikai

In five 3-week seasons beginning in 2003, an area east of the Little Siq at Beidha was surveyed and documented; limited excavation took place when necessary.  The features documented include major water installations including cisterns that can hold over 1 million litres of water; vineyards and grape presses; Nabataean rock-cut halls, some perhaps used for ritual dining; Medieval installations including housing and two mosques; a Byzantine church converted from a Nabataean rock-cut hall; and two major Nabataean buildings.  One of these, in Amti Canyon, may have been an open-air shrine.  The building, of which little is preserved, is square, measures 24.5 metres on each side, and is approached by an elaborate series of walkways.  It may have been used in some ritual associated with wine.  In 2005, on a high rocky outcrop in the eastern part of the study area, a palatial residence of the 1st century B.C. was partially excavated.  The focus of this building was a grand hall that featured capitals with heads of Greco-Roman gods and muses on them.

A Report on the project was published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 49 (2005).

Khazne Courtyard Excavation
Excavation date: 2003; 2004; 2005; 2007 present day
Conducted by: Petra Archaeological Park (PAP), under the supervision of the Department of Antiquities (DoA), Suleiman Farajat

The scientific aims of the Khazne Courtyard Excavation were: attempting to solve the controversy regarding the nature of the Khazne; uncovering part of the paved courtyard that is an extension of the Siq and understanding its nature and relation to the Khazne; and investigating the 途ock-cut shelters to the north of the monument which presented an indication that there were remains still buried.

The project consisted of two main parts: the excavation of the Courtyard and the conservation and protection of the site and visitors from the threat of flashfloods.  Results obtained during soundings of the Khazne Courtyard identified the original pavement at a depth of 3.60 metres with four major phases defined:
Phase 1: Incense Tomb
Phase 2: Window Tomb, Staircase Tomb, and Obliterated Tomb
Phase 3: Khazne fa軋de
Phase 4: Floors, paved courtyards, central staircase, side staircase, walls, water drainage channels, and dams
Excavations have revealed that the Incense Tomb, Window Tomb, Staircase Tomb, and Obliterated Tomb were probably executed at the beginning of the 1st century A.D.  The Khazne fa軋de is believed to have been executed a short time after the carving of the Window and Staircase Tombs.  All the monuments discovered during this project are thought to have been done within a period of 40 years during the reign of Aretas IV.  The infrastructure executed after the Khazne, such as the paving of the courtyard and the construction of the staircase, dams, and water drainage system indicate that this monument was a famous funerary temple that attracted many pilgrims who practiced religious rites and burnt large amounts of incense that were found during the excavations.

A report on the excavations was published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), volume 49 (2005).


North Ridge Project: Nabataean Tombs and Domestic Complexes
Project date:  2005-present
Conducted by:  East Carolina University, under the direction of Megan A. Perry

Previous excavations on Petra痴 North Ridge by the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) primarily documented the area痴 ecclesiastical function during the Byzantine period.  To the east of the Byzantine churches lies a number of unexplored structures likely domestic in nature.  The upper half of the Ridge also is honeycombed by numerous Nabataean period tombs that likely exist below visible architecture on the slope.  The ECU-sponsored North Ridge Project seeks to document these 1st century A.D. tombs and Nabataean and Byzantine period structures.  This research focuses on an area approximately 6 kmイ extending ca. 200 metres east from the church complexes and bounded by the Byzantine city wall to the north and Wadi Mataha to the south.

During 2005 a preliminary survey and mapping project documented a number of ancient walls, 杜odern walls, robbed tombs, water channel systems, structures, stairways, and a cave.  Some of these walls appeared to mirror Nabataean-period construction in other sectors of the site, others probably were later structures constructed with reused cut sandstone blocks.  Almost all of the tombs noted during the survey had been robbed recently, although it was apparent that a large corpus of ceramics, and in some cases, bones remained within the tombs.  Excavations beginning in 2007 will focus on recovering bioarchaeological and material cultural data from the robbed tombs identified in 2005.  The excavation then will be expanded to include the ancient structures on the ridge to explore their function and date to develop the occupational chronology of the North Ridge.  Tombs without modern disturbance may also be encountered underneath these structures and be excavated during future seasons.