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article imageSatellites help with monumental find at Petra World Heritage site

By Karen Graham     Jun 12, 2016 in Science
Petra - At Jordan's famous Petra World heritage site, archaeologists have discovered a large new monumental platform about half-a-mile from the city center, using satellite imagery, Google Earth, drone photography, and ground work.
Archaeologists are saying the monumental find was "hiding in plain site." The UNESCO World Heritage site has been featured in a number of television shows, as well as in movies, like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Mummy Returns, Mortal Kombat, and others.
Archaeologists Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic fellow, and Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, described the find as “a large rectangular platform” measuring about 184 feet by 160 feet.
Drone photography shows the outline of the huge monument very clearly, giving rise to the comment about it hiding in plain sight. Within the larger structure, archaeologists found another smaller platform that appears to have been paved with flagstone at one time and had columns at one side.
But what is more impressive is that the columns “crowned a monumental stairway,” the researchers reported in their study announcing the new find in the May 2016 issue of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. The platforms also contained a small 28-by-28-foot (8.5-by-8.5-meter) building that opened to the East, facing the huge staircase.
Parcak and Tuttle say the new structure and staircase has no known parallels to any of the other structures in Petra, and it most likely served a public, ceremonial function, and if so, this would make it the second largest elevated area known about in Petra, after the Monastery, according to National Geographic.
El Deir   The Monastery   in Petra  Jordan.
El Deir, "The Monastery," in Petra, Jordan.
Diego Delso
“This monumental platform has no parallels at Petra or in its hinterlands at present,” they write in the study, adding: “The amount of effort to construct the site was massive, yet the focal building itself is quite small.” They add that the structure was likely built “when Petra was flourishing as the capital city of Nabataean kingdom, possibly as early as the mid-century B.C.E.”
"I'm sure that over the course of two centuries of research [in Petra], someone had to know [this site] was there, but it's never been systematically studied or written up," Tuttle, the executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, told National Geographic. "I've worked in Petra for 20 years, and I knew that something was there, but it's certainly legitimate to call this a discovery."
Sarah Parcak is an associate professor at the University of Alabama and a 2013 TED fellow. For those following archaeology news, Parcak is also the archaeologist behind the discovery of the second Viking site in North America. The site, in the southwest of Newfoundland, was found using satellite imagery
Petra Archaeological Park covers about 102 square miles (264 square kilometers). The city center, on the other hand, Covers an area of only 2.3 square miles (6 square kilometers). Founded around the mid-second century B.C., it was the capital of the Arab tribe known as the Nabataeans. By the end of the Byzantine period in the seventh century A.D., the city had been abandoned.
An overhead image of the monument photographed from a drone  and a detail overlay of the surface fea...
An overhead image of the monument photographed from a drone, and a detail overlay of the surface features in which the image is rotated 90 degrees clockwise.
Petra is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. The Nabateans were well known for their ability in creating efficient water collecting methods in the barren deserts and their talent in carving structures into solid rocks. After the city was abandoned, it wasn't found until 1812, when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt made it known to the world.
UNESCO describes this World Heritage site as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage." Petra has also been named amongst the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 and was also chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the "28 Places to See Before You Die."
More about petra, Satellite imagery, Google maps, new monument, World Heritage Site
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