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For six weeks during June and July 2000 I participated in the excavation of the Temple of the Winged Lions in Petra, Jordan with the American Expedition to Petra run by Dr. Phillip Hammond.  (Dr. Hammond has since passed away, and the AEP website has disappeared.)

Temple of the Winged Lions

The Khasneh (Treasury) viewed from within the Siq Petra is variously known as the rose-red city, due to the colour of the rock, or the canyon city, as a lot of the buildings and tombs are carved into the sides of a long thin canyon.  People that saw the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade will recognise the Siq opening up onto the building known as the Khasneh (Treasury).

Petra was one of the major cities in the middle east during the 1st to 4th centuries A.D. Occupied by a people called the Nabateans, Petra was taken into the Roman Empire by Trajan in 106 A.D. Estimated to have had a population of 20,000 it was an important source of luxury goods, in particular perfumes and poisons!  It is reckoned at its peak, due to the high value goods it traded, to have been responsible for 20% of the GDP of the Roman Empire.

Sherds and other findsPetra was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 361 A.D., although it later became an important site for Byzantine Christianity as the local water source, Wadi Musa (Moses' spring) is supposed to have originated when Moses struck the ground with his staff.  Also the tomb of Moses' brother, Aaron, is on top of a local mountain.

The excavation of the Temple of the Winged Lions was started in 1974. Excavating from 6am to midday to avoid the afternoon heat, we unearthed a couple of rooms at the back of the temple and an area at the front.  Afternoons were spent processing finds.

We found endless amounts of broken pottery and numerous other artifacts.  One of the more unusual finds was a 1,639 year old lunch box!  Sitting in a niche we found a couple of pots with animal bones and a chicken egg inside, almost intact.  This meal was obviously placed somewhere safe for later consumption just before the earthquake.

Other finds included several complete pots, bowls and jars, along with quite a few pottery pieces that we managed to reconstruct into plates and vases, etc.  We found several coins, both Nabatean and Roman, quite a few sea shells and several architectural pieces such as parts of columns.  Also found were a bone hairpin and a couple of fragments of pottery animal figurines, including one of an ibex.

Bowl Reconstructed vase Bone hairpin Bottle Ibex figurine Plaster from a column

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