Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Petra: City of Mystery

Inhabited since prehistoric times, this Nabataean caravan-city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.

This was established around the 6th century BC in a town called Nabataea. The tombs are up high in the mountain and to be reached by stairs. One entombed there was believed to be Malchus II who died in 70 AD. It would appear that the Nabateaens had arrived and utilized a sophisticated town that was built in the 6th century BC.

The city has an amazingly sophisticated water system with clay pipes and hundreds of underground cisterns. 

There are stone obelisks and "block gods" around the entire area in niches all over including this one with three "block gods."

This block god (above) has a crescent that pre-dates Islam.

Source: In early Nabataean history, the Nabataeans had gods with Arabic names. Some of these were: (1) Al Qaum - the warrior god who guards the caravans, (2) Al Kutbay - the god of learning, commerce, writing, and divination (3) Allat - the goddess of spring and fertility (4) Al Uzza - the powerful and (5) Manawat - the god of destiny or fate.

It is interesting to note that American Native Cultures like Incas, Aztecs and Mayans had similar gods of different industries, as well as the Norse, and the Greeks, whom some researchers think the Nabataeans got their concepts from, though we still do not know who these people were.

Stone gods:  In the Greco-Roman world as well as the Parthian East, people have always accorded the gods with human form. Those of us who studied Greek mythology in school should know a little of how human the gods seemed to be. The Nabataeans on the other hand represented their gods in the form of stelae. These stelae could take the form of rocks set upon end, blocks, or shapes carved into a stone wall, or elaborately carved square djin blocks set up at the entrance to their cities.

(tall doorway, hmm?)

The City was aligned with the sun. 

Source:  Built between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, Mada’in Saleh is an architectural marvel and a testimony to the skill and craftsmanship of the Nabataean who, 2,000 years ago, carved more than 131 tombs into solid rock, complete with decoration, inscriptions, and water wells. The enigmatic Nabataeans were originally a nomadic tribe, but about 2,500 years ago, Nabataean settlements began to flourish. As well as their agricultural activities, they developed political systems, arts, engineering, stonemasonry, and demonstrated astonishing hydraulic expertise, including the construction of wells, cisterns, and aqueducts. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought, and enabled them to prosper. They expanded their trading routes, creating more than 2,000 sites in total in the areas that today are Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Archaeologists still try to unravel the history of the Nabataeans, which in large remains unknown.

Is it just me, or does it seem rather ridiculous that as early as 6th Century BC a group of nomads suddenly built a city in the mountain, carved into rock, of exquisite craftsmanship, cisterns, clay pipes for carrying water and more - yet had no past experience in any of this as nomads? It sounds to me like these folks moved into a city that had been evacuated or brought in as potential slaves who eventually took it over.

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