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The Right to Human Civilization Evolution and preservation of its past : Buddhas of Bamiyan



Buddhas of Bamiyan

Historic footage of Bamiyan statues

Uploaded on Jan 25, 2007

A sequence on the Bamiyan statues from “Adventure in Afghanistan” from Hal, Halla and David Linker’s television travelogue series, “The Wild, the Weird, and the Wonderful”, circa 1973. The Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003; it is noted as being a World Heritage Site in Danger. The film clip is from the Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution collection of historical moving images.
http://siris-archives.si.edu/ipac20/i…

Buddhas of Bamiyan

 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cultural Landscape and Archeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Afghanistan Statua di Budda 1.jpg

The taller of the two Buddhas of Bamiyan in 1976

Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii, iv, vi.
Reference 208
UNESCO region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 2003 (27th Session)
Endangered 2003–present

The Buddhas of Bamiyan (Persian: بت های باميان – but hay-e bamiyan) were two 6th-century[1] monumental statues of standing buddha carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, 230 km (140 mi) northwest of Kabul at an altitude of 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). Built in 507 AD (smaller) and 554 AD (larger),[1] the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art.[2]

The main bodies were hewn directly from the sandstone cliffs, but details were modeled in mud mixed with straw, coated with stucco. This coating, practically all of which wore away long ago, was painted to enhance the expressions of the faces, hands and folds of the robes; the larger one was painted carmine red and the smaller one was painted multiple colors.[3]

The lower parts of the statues’ arms were constructed from the same mud-straw mix while supported on wooden armatures. It is believed that the upper parts of their faces were made from great wooden masks or casts. Rows of holes that can be seen in photographs were spaces that held wooden pegs that stabilized the outer stucco.

They were dynamited and destroyed in March 2001 by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar,[4] after the Taliban government declared that they were idols.[5] An envoy visiting the United States in the following weeks explained that they were destroyed to protest international aid exclusively reserved for statue maintenance while Afghanistan was experiencing famine,[6] while the Afghan Foreign Minister claimed that the destruction was merely about carrying out Islamic religious iconoclasm. International opinion strongly condemned the destruction of the Buddhas, which in the following years was primarily viewed as an example of the extreme religious intolerance of the Taliban. Japan and Switzerland, among others, have pledged support for the rebuilding of the statues.[7]

History

Further information: Buddhism in Afghanistan

 Drawing of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by Alexander Burnes 1832

 
Taller Buddha in 1963 and in 2008 after destruction

 
Smaller Buddha in 1977

Bamiyan lies on the Silk Road, which runs through the Hindu Kush mountain region, in the Bamiyan Valley. The Silk Road has been historically a caravan route linking the markets of China with those of the Western world. It was the site of several Buddhist monasteries, and a thriving center for religion, philosophy, and art. Monks at the monasteries lived as hermits in small caves carved into the side of the Bamiyan cliffs. Most of these monks embellished their caves with religious statuary and elaborate, brightly colored frescoes. It was a Buddhist religious site from the 2nd century up to the time of the Islamic invasion in the later half of the 7th century. Until it was completely conquered by the Muslim Saffarids in the 9th century, Bamiyan shared the culture of Gandhara.

The two most prominent statues were the giant standing Buddhas Vairocana and Sakyamuni, identified by the different mudras performed. The Buddha popularly called “Solsol” measures 53 meters tall, and “Shahmama” 35 meters – the niches in which the figures stand are 58 and 38 meters from bottom to top.[8][9] Before being blown up in 2001 they were the largest examples of standing Buddha carvings in the world (the 8th century Leshan Giant Buddha is taller,[10] but the statue is sitting). Since then the Spring Temple Buddha has been built in China, and at 128 m (420 ft) it is the tallest statue in the world. Plans for the construction of the Spring Temple Buddha were announced soon after the blowing up of the Bamiyan Buddhas and China condemned the systematic destruction of the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan.

The smaller of the statues was built between 544 and 595, the larger was built between 591 and 644.[11] The larger figure was also said to portray Dīpankara Buddha. They were perhaps the most famous cultural landmarks of the region, and the site was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site along with the surrounding cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley. Their color faded through time.[12]

Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang visited the site on 30 April 630 AD,[13][14][15] and described Bamiyan in the Da Tang Xiyu Ji as a flourishing Buddhist center “with more than ten monasteries and more than a thousand monks”. He also noted that both Buddha figures were “decorated with gold and fine jewels” (Wriggins, 1995). Intriguingly, Xuanzang mentions a third, even larger, reclining statue of the Buddha.[3][15][16] A monumental seated Buddha, similar in style to those at Bamiyan, still exists in the Bingling Temple caves in China’s Gansu province.

The destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas became a symbol of oppression and a rallying point for the freedom of religious expression. Despite the fact that most Afghans are now Muslim, they too had embraced their past and many were appalled by the destruction.[17][18][19]

Attacks on the Buddha’s statue

11th to the 20th century

In 1221 with the advent of Genghis Khan “a terrible disaster befell Bamiyan,”[20][21] nevertheless, the statues were spared. Later, the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, tried to use heavy artillery to destroy the statues. Another attempt to destroy the Bamiyan statues was made by the 18th century Persian king Nader Afshar, directing cannon fire at them.[22]

The enormous statues, the male Salsal (“light shines through the universe”) and the (smaller) female Shamama (“Queen Mother”),[23] as they were called by the locals, did not fail to fire the imagination of Islamic writers in centuries past. The larger statue reappears as the malevolent giant Salsal in medieval Turkish tales.[24]

Afghan king Abdur Rahman Khan destroyed its face during a military campaign against the Shia Hazara rebellion.[25] A Frenchman named Dureau had pictured it in 1847.[26]

Preface to 2001, under the Taliban

Abdul Wahed, a Taliban commander operating in the area, announced his intention to blow up the Buddhas in 1997 even before he had taken control of the valley. Once he was in control of Bamiyan in 1998, Wahed drilled holes in the Buddhas’ heads for explosives. He was prevented from taking further action by the local governor and direct order of Mullah Omar, although tyres were burnt on the head of the great Buddha.[27] In July 1999, Mullah Mohammed Omar issued a decree in favor of the preservation of the Bamiyan Buddha statues. Because Afghanistan’s Buddhist population no longer exists, so the statues are no longer worshipped, he added: “The government considers the Bamiyan statues as an example of a potential major source of income for Afghanistan from international visitors. The Taliban states that Bamiyan shall not be destroyed but protected.”[28] In early 2000, local Taliban authorities asked for UN assistance to rebuild drainage ditches around tops of the alcoves where the Buddhas were set.[29]

However, Afghanistan’s radical clerics began a campaign to crack down on “un-Islamic” segments of Afghan society. The Taliban soon banned all forms of imagery, music and sports, including television, in accordance with what they considered a strict interpretation of Sharia.[30]

Information and Culture Minister Qadratullah Jamal told Associated Press of a decision by 400 religious clerics from across Afghanistan declaring the Buddhist statues against the tenets of Islam. “They came out with a consensus that the statues were against Islam,” said Jamal.

According to UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, a meeting of ambassadors from the 54 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was conducted. All OIC states – including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, three countries that officially recognised the Taliban government – joined the protest to spare the monuments.[31] Saudi Arabia and the UAE later condemned the destruction as “savage”.[32] Although India never recognised the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, New Delhi offered to arrange for the transfer of all the artifacts in question to India, “where they would be kept safely and preserved for all mankind.” These overtures were rejected by the Taliban.[33] Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf sent Moinuddin Haider to Kabul to try to prevent the destruction, by arguing that it was un-Islamic and unprecedented.[34] According to Taliban minister, Abdul Salam Zaeef, UNESCO sent the Taliban government 36 letters objecting to the proposed destruction. He asserted that the Chinese, Japanese and Sri Lankan delegates were the most strident advocates for preserving the Buddhas. The Japanese in particular proposed a variety of different solutions to the issue, these included moving the statues to Japan, covering the statues from view and the payment of money.[35]

A statement issued by the ministry of religious affairs of Taliban regime justified the destruction as being in accordance with Islamic law.[36] Abdul Salam Zaeef held that the destruction of the Buddhas was finally ordered by Abdul Wali, the Minister for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.[37]

Dynamiting and destruction, March 2001

 Destruction of the site by the Taliban

 
Site of the larger statue after it was destroyed

 
Site of the smaller statue in 2005

The statues were destroyed by dynamite over several weeks, starting on 2 March 2001,[38] carried out in stages. Initially, the statues were fired at for several days using anti-aircraft guns and artillery. This caused severe damage, but did not obliterate them. During the destruction, Taliban Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal lamented that, “this work of destruction is not as simple as people might think. You can’t knock down the statues by shelling as both are carved into a cliff; they are firmly attached to the mountain.”[39] Later, the Taliban placed anti-tank mines at the bottom of the niches, so that when fragments of rock broke off from artillery fire, the statues would receive additional destruction from particles that set off the mines. In the end, the Taliban lowered men down the cliff face and placed explosives into holes in the Buddhas.[40] After one of the explosions failed to completely obliterate the face of one of the Buddhas, a rocket was launched that left a hole in the remains of the stone head.[41]

On 6 March 2001 The Times quoted Mullah Mohammed Omar as stating, “Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to Allah that we have destroyed them.”[42] During a 13 March interview for Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun, Afghan Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel stated that the destruction was anything but a retaliation against the international community for economic sanctions: “We are destroying the statues in accordance with Islamic law and it is purely a religious issue”.

On 18 March, The New York Times reported that a Taliban envoy said the Islamic government made its decision in a rage after a foreign delegation offered money to preserve the ancient works. The report also added, however, that other reports “have said the religious leaders were debating the move for months, and ultimately decided that the statues were idolatrous and should be obliterated.”[43]

Then Taliban ambassador-at-large Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi said that the destruction of the statues was carried out by the Head Council of Scholars after a Swedish monuments expert proposed to restore the statues’ heads. Hashimi is reported as saying: “When the Afghan head council asked them to provide the money to feed the children instead of fixing the statues, they refused and said, ‘No, the money is just for the statues, not for the children’. Herein, they made the decision to destroy the statues”; however, he did not comment on the claim that a foreign museum offered to “buy the Buddhist statues, the money from which could have been used to feed children.”[44]

The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas despite protests from the international community has been described by Michael Falser, a heritage expert at the Center for Transcultural Studies in Germany, as an attack by the Taliban against the globalising concept of “cultural heritage”.[45] The director general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Koichiro Matsuura called the destruction a “…crime against culture. It is abominable to witness the cold and calculated destruction of cultural properties which were the heritage of the Afghan people, and, indeed, of the whole of humanity.”[46]

Commitment to rebuild

Though the figures of the two large Buddhas are almost completely destroyed, their outlines and some features are still recognizable within the recesses. It is also still possible for visitors to explore the monks’ caves and passages that connect them. As part of the international effort to rebuild Afghanistan after the Taliban war, the Government of Japan and several other organizations, among them the Afghanistan Institute in Bubendorf, Switzerland, along with the ETH in Zurich, have committed to rebuilding, perhaps by anastylosis, the two larger Buddhas.

Developments since 2002

In May 2002, a sculpture of the Buddha was carved out of a mountain in Sri Lanka. It was designed to closely resemble one of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.

In September 2005, Mawlawi Mohammed Islam Mohammadi, Taliban governor of Bamiyan province at the time of the destruction and widely seen as responsible for its occurrence, was elected to the Afghan Parliament. On 26 January 2007, he was assassinated in Kabul.

Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei made a 95-minute documentary titled The Giant Buddhas (released in March 2006) on the statues, the international reactions to their destruction, and an overview of the controversy. Testimony by local Afghans validates that Osama Bin Laden ordered the destruction and that, initially, Mullah Omar and the Afghans in Bamiyan opposed it.[47]

Since 2002, international funding has supported recovery and stabilization efforts at the site. Fragments of the statues are documented and stored with special attention given to securing the structure of the statue still in place. It is hoped that, in the future, partial anastylosis can be conducted with the remaining fragments. In 2009, ICOMOS constructed scaffolding within the niche to further conservation and stabilization. Nonetheless, several serious conservation and safety issues exist and the Buddhas are still listed as World Heritage in Danger.[48]

In the summer of 2006, Afghan officials were deciding on the timetable for the re-construction of the statues. As they wait for the Afghan government and international community to decide when to rebuild them, a $1.3 million UNESCO-funded project is sorting out the chunks of clay and plaster—ranging from boulders weighing several tons to fragments the size of tennis balls—and sheltering them from the elements.

The Buddhist remnants at Bamiyan were included on the 2008 World Monuments Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund.

Discoveries

 
Grotto painting in 2008

After the destruction of the Buddhas, 50 caves were revealed. In 12 of the caves, wall paintings were discovered.[49] In December 2004, an international team of researchers stated the wall paintings at Bamiyan were painted between the 5th and the 9th centuries, rather than the 6th to 8th centuries, citing their analysis of radioactive isotopes contained in straw fibers found beneath the paintings. It is believed that the paintings were done by artists travelling on the Silk Road, the trade route between China and the West.[50]

Scientists from the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo (Japan), the Centre of Research and Restoration of the French Museums-CNRS (France), the Getty Conservation Institute (United States) and the ESRF (the European Synchrotron radiation facility) in Grenoble analysed samples from the paintings,[51] typically less than 1 mm across.[52] They discovered that the paint contained pigments such as vermilion (red mercury sulfide) and lead white (lead carbonate). These were mixed with a range of binders, including natural resins, gums (possibly animal skin glue or egg)[52] and oils, probably derived from walnuts or poppies.[50] Specifically, researchers identified drying oils from murals showing Buddhas in vermilion robes sitting cross-legged amid palm leaves and mythical creatures as being painted in the middle of the 7th century.[49] It is believed that they are the oldest known surviving examples of oil painting, possibly predating oil painting in Europe by as much as six centuries.[50] The discovery may lead to a reassessment of works in ancient ruins in Iran, China, Pakistan, Turkey and India.[50]

Initial suspicion that the oils might be attributable to contamination from fingers, as the touching of the painting is encouraged in Buddhist tradition,[52] was dispelled by spectroscopy and chromatography giving an unambiguous signal for the intentional use of drying oils rather than contaminants.[52] Oils were discovered underneath layers of paint, unlike surface contaminants.[52]

Scientists also found the translation of the beginning section of the original Sanskrit Pratītyasamutpāda Sutra translated by Xuanzang that spelled out the basic belief of Buddhism and said all things are transient.[53]

Another giant statue unearthed

On 8 September 2008 archeologists searching for a legendary 300-metre statue at the site of the already dynamited Buddhas announced the discovery of parts of an unknown 19-metre (62-foot) reclining Buddha, a pose representing Buddha’s Parinirvana.[54]

Restoration

The UNESCO Expert Working Group on Afghan cultural projects convened to discuss what to do about the two statues between 3–4 March 2011 in Paris. Researcher Erwin Emmerling of Technical University Munich announced he believed it would be possible to restore the smaller statue using an organic silicon compound.[11] The Paris conference issued a list of 39 recommendations for the safeguarding of the Bamiyan site. These included leaving the larger Western niche empty as a monument to the destruction of the Buddhas, a feasibility study into the rebuilding of the Eastern Buddha, and the construction of a central museum and several smaller site museums.[55] Work has since begun on restoring the Buddhas using the process of anastylosis, where original elements are combined with modern material. It is estimated that roughly half the pieces of the Buddhas can be put back together according to Bert Praxenthaler, a German art historian and sculptor involved in the restoration. The restoration of the caves and Buddhas has also involved training and employing local people as stone carvers.[56] The project, which also aims to encourage tourism to the area, is being organised by UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). The work has come under some criticism. It is felt by some, such as human rights activist Abdullah Hamadi, that the empty niches should be left as monuments to the fanaticism of the Taliban, while NPR reported that others believe the money could be better spent on housing and electricity for the region.[57] Some people, including Habiba Sarabi, the provincial governor, believe that rebuilding the Buddhas would increase tourism which would aid the surrounding communities.[57]

See also

References

Notes

  1. Kakissis, Joanna (27 July 2011). “Bit By Bit, Afghanistan Rebuilds Buddhist Statues”. National Public Radio. Retrieved 22 April 2013.

Further reading

External links

 

Human Civilization Heritage – Historic Sites: Petra – Jordan (Listed by UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists) and Smithsonian Magazine’s – “28 Places to See Before You Die”


Petra

This article is about the Jordanian ancient city of Petra. For other uses, see Petra (disambiguation).
Petra
Al Khazneh.jpg

Al Khazneh or The Treasury at Petra
Location Ma’an Governorate, Jordan
Coordinates 30°19′43″N 35°26′31″ECoordinates: 30°19′43″N 35°26′31″E
Elevation 810 m (2,657 ft)
Built possibly as early as 5th century BC [1]
Visitation 580,000 (in 2007)
Governing body Petra Region Authority
 
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii, iv
Designated 1985 (9th session)
Reference no. 326
State Party Jordan
Region Arab States
 
Website www.visitpetra.jo
Petra is located in Jordan

Petra
 
Location of Petra in Jordan

Petra (Arabic: البتراء, Al-Batrāʾ; Ancient Greek: Πέτρα) is a historical and archaeological city in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved.

Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans,[2] it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction.[3] It lies on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah (identified by some as the biblical Mount Hor[4]) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” in a Newdigate Prize-winning poem by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”.[5] See: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. Petra was chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the “28 Places to See Before You Die”.[6]

Geography

Pliny the Elder and other writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans and the center of their caravan trade. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress, but controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf.

Map of Petra

 

The narrow passage (Siq) that leads to Petra

Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought, and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.[7][8]

In ancient times, Petra might have been approached from the south on a track leading across the plain of Petra, around Jabal Haroun (“Aaron’s Mountain”), where the Tomb of Aaron, said to be the burial-place of Aaron, brother of Moses, is located. Another approach was possibly from the high plateau to the north. Today, most modern visitors approach the site from the east. The impressive eastern entrance leads steeply down through a dark, narrow gorge (in places only 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) wide) called the Siq (“the shaft”), a natural geological feature formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks and serving as a waterway flowing into Wadi Musa. At the end of the narrow gorge stands Petra’s most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh (popularly known as and meaning “the Treasury”), hewn into the sandstone cliff. While remaining in remarkably preserved condition, the face of the structure is marked by hundreds of bullet holes made by the local Bedouin tribes that hoped to dislodge riches that were once rumored to be hidden within it.[9]

A little farther from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr, is a massive theatre, positioned so as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The amphitheatre has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-colored mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers.

History

One of the many dwellings in Petra

 

General view of Petra

 

Some of the earliest recorded farmers settled in Beidha, a pre-pottery settlement just north of Petra, by 7000 BC.[10] Petra is listed in Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna letters as Pel, Sela or Seir. Though the city was founded relatively late, a sanctuary has existed there since very ancient times. Stations 19 through 26 of the stations list of Exodus are places associated with Petra.[11] This part of the country was biblically assigned to the Horites, the predecessors of the Edomites.[12] The habits of the original natives may have influenced the Nabataean custom of burying the dead and offering worship in half-excavated caves. Although Petra is usually identified with Sela, which means a rock, the Biblical references[13] refer to it as “the cleft in the rock”, referring to its entrance. In the parallel passage, however, Sela is understood to mean simply “the rock” (2 Chronicles xxv. 12, see LXX).

Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews iv. 7, 1~ 4, 7), Eusebius and Jerome (Onom. sacr. 286, 71. 145, 9; 228, 55. 287, 94) assert that Rekem was the native name, and this name appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls[14] as a prominent Edomite site most closely describing Petra, and associated with Mount Seir. But in the Aramaic versions, Rekem is the name of Kadesh, implying that Josephus may have confused the two places. The Semitic name of the city, if not Sela, remains unknown. The passage in Diodorus Siculus (xix. 94–97) which describes the expeditions which Antigonus sent against the Nabataeans in 312 BC is understood to throw some light upon the history of Petra, but the “petra” referred to as a natural fortress and place of refuge cannot be a proper name and the description implies that the town was not yet in existence.

 
The Rekem Inscription before it was buried by the bridge abutments.

The name “Rekem” was inscribed in the rock wall of the Wadi Musa opposite the entrance to the Siq,[15] but about twenty years ago[timeframe?] the Jordanians built a bridge over the wadi and this inscription was buried beneath tons of concrete.[citation needed]

More satisfactory evidence of the date of the earliest Nabataean settlement may be obtained from an examination of the tombs. Two types of tombs have been distinguished: the Nabataean and the Greco-Roman. The Nabataean type starts from the simple pylon-tomb with a door set in a tower crowned by a parapet ornament, in imitation of the front of a dwelling-house. Then, after passing through various stages, the full Nabataean type is reached, retaining all the native features and at the same time exhibiting characteristics which are partly Egyptian and partly Greek. Of this type close parallels exist in the tomb-towers at Mada’in Saleh in north Arabia, which bear long Nabataean inscriptions and supply a date for the corresponding monuments at Petra. Then comes a series of tombfronts which terminate in a semicircular arch, a feature derived from north Syria. Finally come the elaborate façades copied from the front of a Roman temple; however, all traces of native style have vanished. The exact dates of the stages in this development cannot be fixed. Few inscriptions of any length have been found at Petra, perhaps because they have perished with the stucco or cement which was used upon many of the buildings. The simple pylon-tombs which belong to the pre-Hellenic age serve as evidence for the earliest period. It is not known how far back in this stage the Nabataean settlement goes, but it does not go back farther than the 6th century BC. A period follows in which the dominant civilization combines Greek, Egyptian and Syrian elements, clearly pointing to the age of the Ptolemies. Towards the close of the 2nd century BC, when the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms were equally depressed, the Nabataean kingdom came to the front. Under Aretas III Philhellene, (c.85–60 BC), the royal coins begin. The theatre was probably excavated at that time, and Petra must have assumed the aspect of a Hellenistic city. In the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, (9 BC–40 AD), the tombs of the el-I~ejr[clarification needed] type may be dated, and perhaps also the High-place.

Roman rule

In 106 AD, when Cornelius Palma was governor of Syria, the part of Arabia under the rule of Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire as part of Arabia Petraea and became its capital. The native dynasty came to an end but the city continued to flourish under Roman rule. It was around this time that the Petra Roman Road was built. A century later, in the time of Alexander Severus, when the city was at the height of its splendor, the issue of coinage comes to an end. There is no more building of sumptuous tombs, owing apparently to some sudden catastrophe, such as an invasion by the neo-Persian power under the Sassanid Empire. Meanwhile, as Palmyra (fl. 130–270) grew in importance and attracted the Arabian trade away from Petra, the latter declined. It appears, however, to have lingered on as a religious centre. Another Roman road was constructed at the site. Epiphanius of Salamis (c.315–403) writes that in his time a feast was held there on December 25 in honor of the virgin Khaabou (Chaabou) and her offspring Dushara (Haer. 51).[citation needed]

Byzantine era – decline

Petra declined rapidly under Roman rule, in large part from the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed many buildings, and crippled the vital water management system.[16] The last inhabitants abandoned the city (further weakened by another major earthquake in 551) when the Arabs conquered the region in 663. The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the end of the 13th century. The first European to describe them was Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

Because the structures weakened with age, many of the tombs became vulnerable to thieves, and many treasures were stolen. In 1929, a four-person team, consisting of British archaeologists Agnes Conway and George Horsfield, Palestinian physician and folklore expert Dr Tawfiq Canaan and Dr Ditlef Nielsen, a Danish scholar, excavated and surveyed Petra.[17]

T. E. Lawrence

 Petra siq in 1947 (left) compared with the same location in 2013

In October 1917, as part of a general effort to divert Ottoman military resources away from the British advance before the Third Battle of Gaza, a revolt of Syrians and Arabians in Petra was led by British Army officer T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) against the Ottoman regime. The Bedouin women living in the vicinity of Petra and under the leadership of Sheik Khallil’s wife were gathered to fight in the revolt of the city. The rebellions, with the support of English military, were able to devastate the Ottoman forces.[18]

Religion

 The Theatre
See also: Nabataean art

The Nabataeans worshipped the Arab gods and goddesses of the pre-Islamic times as well as a few of their deified kings. One, Obodas I, was deified after his death. Dushara was the primary male god accompanied by his female trinity: Al-‘Uzzá, Allat and Manāt. Many statues carved in the rock depict these gods and goddesses.

A stele is dedicated to Qos-Allah ‘Qos is Allah’ or ‘Qos the god’, by Qosmilk (melech – king) is found at Petra (Glueck 516). Qos is identifiable with Kaush (Qaush) the God of the older Edomites. The stele is horned and the seal from the Edomite Tawilan near Petra identified with Kaush displays a star and crescent (Browning 28), both consistent with a moon deity. It is conceivable the latter could have resulted from trade with Harran (Bartlett 194). There is continuing debate about the nature of Qos (qaus – bow) who has been identified both with a hunting bow (hunting god) and a rainbow (weather god) although the crescent above is also a bow.

Nabatean inscriptions in Sinai and other places display widespread references to names including Allah, El and Allat (god and goddess), with regional references to al-Uzza, Baal and Manutu (Manat) (Negev 11). Allat is also found in Sinai in South Arabian language. Allah occurs particularly as Garm-‘allahi – god dedided (Greek Garamelos) and Aush-allahi – ‘gods covenant’ (Greek Ausallos). We find both Shalm-lahi ‘Allah is peace’ and Shalm-allat, ‘the peace of the goddess’. We also find Amat-allahi ‘she-servant of god’ and Halaf-llahi ‘the successor of Allah’.[19]

The Monastery, Petra’s largest monument, dates from the 1st century BC. It was dedicated to Obodas I and is believed to be the symposium of Obodas the god. This information is inscribed on the ruins of the Monastery (the name is the translation of the Arabic “Ad Deir“).

Christianity found its way to Petra in the 4th century AD, nearly 500 years after the establishment of Petra as a trade center. Athanasius mentions a bishop of Petra (Anhioch. 10) named Asterius. At least one of the tombs (the “tomb with the urn”?) was used as a church. An inscription in red paint records its consecration “in the time of the most holy bishop Jason” (447). After the Islamic conquest of 629–632 Christianity in Petra, as of most of Arabia, gave way to Islam. During the First Crusade Petra was occupied by Baldwin I of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and formed the second fief of the barony of Al Karak (in the lordship of Oultrejordain) with the title Château de la Valée de Moyse or Sela. It remained in the hands of the Franks until 1189. It is still a titular see of the Catholic Church.[20]

Two Crusader-period castles are known in and around Petra. The first is al-Wu’ayra and is situated just north of Wadi Musa. It can be viewed from the road to “Little Petra”. It is the castle of Valle Moise which was seized by a band of Turks with the help of local Muslims and only recovered by the Crusaders after they began to destroy the olive trees of Wadi Musa. The potential loss of livelihood led the locals to negotiate surrender. The second is on the summit of el-Habis in the heart of Petra and can be accessed from the West side of the Qasr al-Bint.

According to Arab tradition, Petra is the spot where Moses (Musa) struck a rock with his staff and water came forth, and where Moses’ brother, Aaron (Harun), is buried, at Mount Hor, known today as Jabal Haroun or Mount Aaron. The Wadi Musa or “Wadi of Moses” is the Arab name for the narrow valley at the head of which Petra is sited. A mountaintop shrine of Moses’ sister Miriam was still shown to pilgrims at the time of Jerome in the 4th century, but its location has not been identified since.[21]

Threats to Petra

The site suffers from a host of threats, including collapse of ancient structures, erosion due to flooding and improper rainwater drainage, weathering from salt upwelling,[22] improper restoration of ancient structures, and unsustainable tourism.[23] The last has increased substantially, especially since the site received widespread media coverage in 2007 during the controversial New Seven Wonders of the World Internet and cell phone campaign.[24]

In an attempt to reduce the impact of these threats, Petra National Trust (PNT) was established in 1989. Over this time, it has worked together with numerous local and international organizations on projects that promote the protection, conservation and preservation of the Petra site.[25] Moreover, UNESCO and ICOMOS recently collaborated to publish their first book on human and natural threats to these sensitive World Heritage sites. They chose Petra as its first, and the most important example of threatened landscapes. A book released in 2012, Tourism and Archaeological Heritage Management at Petra: Driver to Development or Destruction?, was the first in a series of important books to address the very nature of these deteriorating buildings, cities, sites, and regions. The next books in the series of deteriorating UNESCO World Heritage Sites will include Macchu Picchu, Angkor Wat, and Pompeii. (25).

 
Camel sitting in front of Al Khazneh

Petra today

On December 6, 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site. Some of the sights of Petra are available on Google Street View.

In popular culture

Petra is the main topic in John William Burgon‘s sonnet (rhyme scheme aabbccddeeffgg) “Petra” which won the Newdigate Prize in 1845. The poem refers to Petra as the inaccessible city which he had heard described but had never seen:

It seems no work of Man’s creative hand,

by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;

But from the rock as if by magic grown,

eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!

Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,

where erst Athena held her rites divine;

Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,

that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;

But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,

that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;

The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,

which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,

match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,

a rose-red city half as old as time.

In 1977, the Lebanese Rahbani brothers wrote the musical “Petra” as a response to the Lebanese Civil War.[26]

The site is featured in films such as: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, Passion in the Desert, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, The Mummy Returns and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

It was recreated for the video games Spy Hunter (2001), King’s Quest V, Lego Indiana Jones, Sonic Unleashed, Knights of the Temple: Infernal Crusade and Civilization V.

Petra appeared in the novels Left Behind Series, Appointment with Death, The Eagle in the Sand, The Red Sea Sharks, the nineteenth book in The Adventures of Tintin series and in Kingsbury’s The Moon Goddess and the Son. It featured prominently in the Marcus Didius Falco mystery novel Last Act in Palmyra. In Blue Balliett‘s novel, Chasing Vermeer, the character Petra Andalee is named after the site.[27]

The Sisters of Mercy filmed their music video for “Dominion/Mother Russia” in and around Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) in February 1988.

In 1994 Petra featured in the video to the Urban Species video Spiritual Love.

Petra was featured in episode 3 of the 2010 series An Idiot Abroad.

In 1979 Marguerite van Geldermalsen from New Zealand married Mohammed Abdullah, a Bedouin in Petra.[28] They lived in a cave in Petra until the death of her husband. She authored the book Married to a Bedouin. Geldermalsen is the only western woman who has ever lived in Petra.

Petra was featured in episode 20 of Misaeng_(TV_series). [29][30]

Sister cities

Views of Petra
The road to the Siiq 
The Siiq, path to Petra 
El Deir (“The Monastery”) 
Byzantine mosaic in the Byzantine Church of Petra 
The end of the Siq, with its dramatic view of Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) 
The Hadrian Gate and the Cardo Maximus in Petra 
Petra is known as the Rose-Red City[31] for the colour of the rocks from which Petra is carved 
The Great Temple of Petra 
Ad Deir (“The Monastery”) in 1839, by David Roberts 
The Petra Visitors Centre in Wadi Musa, the closest town to the historic site 
Drimia maritima bulbs in Petra in early December (2010) 
Sandstone Rock-cut tombs (Kokhim) in Petra 
Obelisk Tomb and the Triclinium 
Street of Façades 
The Silk Tomb 
Uneishu Tomb 
Lonely cave 
Sandstone rocks 
Main entrance (Al Khazneh) 
Theatre 
General view 
Ancient columns 
Tourist attraction 

See also

Petra one of the most Mysterious Archaeological Sites on Earth [FULL DOCUMENTARY]