MessageToEagle.com - Petra - was a "fairy city of pink sandstone", mysterious, legendary and long forgotten.
More than 3,000 temples, tombs and thousands of caves carved out of sandstone rocks, all was lost to the western world,
and erased from our memory for over a thousand years.
Ancient city of Petra was built in the harsh desert of southern Jordan and situated in Mt. Seir, about 80 kilometers
south of the Dead Sea and 2,775 feet above sea-leve. It lwas first inhabited by a Semitic-speaking tribe
of the Edomites, mentioned in the Bible as descendants of Esau, the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.
From the first century B.C. to the third century A.D., Petra was one of the most influential and prosperous
commercial centres in antiquity.
History has long been very silent in regard to the life, art and religion of the Edomites, but slowly, archaeologists
begin to unveil Petra's oldest secrets.
Recently, a team of international archaeologists led by Professor Susan Alcock of the Brown University Petra
Archaeological Project (BUPAP) unearthed terrace farming at ancient desert city of Petra dated to the first
The discovery is an evidence into successful and extensive water management and agricultural production in and around
the ancient desert city.
This development seems to be due to the ingenuity and enterprise of the
ancient Nabataeans, whose prosperous kingdom had its capital at Petra until the beginning of the second century.
The successful terrace farming of wheat, grapes and possibly olives, resulted in a vast, green, agricultural “suburb”
to Petra in an otherwise inhospitable, arid landscape. This terrace farming remained extensive and robust through the
Based on surface finds and comparative data collected by other researchers in the area, however, it is
clear that this type of farming continued to some extent for many centuries, until the end of the first millennium
(between A.D. 800 and 1000).
It was time, when ancient Petra was under extensive cultivation is a testament to past strategies of
land management, and is all the more striking in light of the area’s dry and dusty environment today.
Dating the start of extensive terrace farming at Petra to the beginning of the common era has important historical
implications, according to Cloke, because this date coincides closely with the Roman annexation of the Nabataean
Kingdom in A.D. 106.
"No doubt the explosion of agricultural activity in the first century and the increased wealth that resulted from
the wine and oil production made Petra an exceptionally attractive prize for Rome," researcher Christian Cloke, a
doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati, and one of the researchers involved in the Brown University
Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP), said.
"The region around Petra not only grew enough food to meet its own needs, but also would have been able to provide
olives, olive oil, grapes and wine for trade. This robust agricultural production would have made the region a valuable
asset for supplying Roman forces on the empire's eastern frontier."
This canyon dam and water pipe were part of ancient Petra's complex water-management system.
On large stretches of land north of Petra, inhabitants built complex and extensive systems to dam wadis (riverbeds)
and redirect winter rainwater to hillside terraces used for farming.
Rainfall in the region occurs only between October and March, often in brief, torrential downpours, so it was important
for Petra’s inhabitants to capture and store all available water for later use during the dry season. Over the centuries,
the Nabataeans of Petra became experts at doing so.
“Perhaps most significantly,” said Cloke, “it’s clear that they had considerable knowledge of their surrounding topography
and climate. The Nabataeans differentiated watersheds and the zones of use for water: water collected and stored in the
city itself was not cannibalized for agricultural uses."
Scientists presented their findings on Jan. 4, 2013 at the Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting in
Seattle, in a paper titled "On the Rocks: Landscape Modification and Archaeological Features in Petra’s