Friday, July 21, 2006

EnclopediaJane: Petra

So this week I’m continuing the weekly Friday EncyclopediaJane feature. The last few days my mind has been dwelling on the middle east and how the continuing war threatens to destroy thousands (if not ultimately millions) of lives and hundreds of ancient archeological sites. So when I saw a book on Petra, the Jordanian rock city, in the sales bin at the local Barnes & Nobles, I couldn’t resist. (Well, even if war hadn’t broken out, I wouldn’t have resisted. But that’s another story.)

After today I’m opening the feature up for blog reader suggestions. So if there’s something you’ve always wondered about but never had the time to check out for yourself, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can dig up. Maybe!

If no one has any suggestions, next week’s topic will be: Shea butter. What is it?

Petra is an archeological site in southern Jordan. This ancient city was carved into the hollow between mountains Umm el Biyara and Jebel el Khubtha and is situated about 80 km south of the Dead Sea and 190 miles south of Amman. Hunting and gathering tribes roamed the area from about 1500 until 1300 BCE when the semitic Edomites settled there. Around the fourth century BCE the Arabic Nabateans emerged from Babylon and drove the Edomites out. Under their rule Petra grew rapidly and soon became the epicenter of a bustling trade empire—spices, silver, frankincense, myrrh and water were all part of their expanding caravan trade network. Because there were only a few easily controllable entrances and exits, the settlement was easily defended from invaders. The Nabateans also developed an innovative hydraulic engineering system that channeled infrequent winter rainwater into cisterns for use in later, drier months. In about 63 AD Petra was conquered by the Romans but remained under autonomous rule until 106 CE when Emperor Trajan annexed the kingdom to the Roman province of Arabia. An earthquake destroyed half the city in 330 CE, but some inhabitants remained. Archeological records show us that there was a fragmented Byzantine community living among the abandoned buildings until about 551 CE when an even larger earthquake finally brought this ancient city to its knees. (By the way, Byzantine Christians settled in abandoned rock churches and houses in a similar fashion in eastern Turkey’s Cappadocia region. The final chapters of my yet-to-be-published novel, The Jar-Born Sage, are set in this eerie moon-like region.)

Wanna know more? Check out Petra: Jordan’s Extraordinary Anciet City by Fabio Bourbon.


Blogger Red said...

Fascinating stuff.

I might take advantage of your good will and suggest a topic: What really happened at Hanging Rock? (I admit to not having seen the film, so I only have a few sketchy details.)

BTW, Jessica, I must say: I really love your blog!

4:11 AM  

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