The research project in Petra (Jordan) is the first to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the enormous technological efforts and innovations that facilitated permanent and representative settlement of this once uninhabitable area.


When, in the course of the Hellenistic period (330-30 BC), the Nabataeans, a formerly nomadic Arabic tribe, became at least partially settled and founded their future capital, their leaders chose a location that strikes modern visitors as highly unfavorable, and hence marginal. In a place fully exposed to the elements (spring tides) and lacking necessary infrastructure (e.g. no fresh water supply, poor agricultural conditions), a place where no permanent settlement could be defended through military means, they set to work building a magnificent agglomeration. The choice of location can only be understood from a nomadic point of view; it is in fact a good choice for a temporary campsite that can be dismantled on short notice should the need arise. Making this into a functioning and permanent settlement, let alone a highly representative central place, required enormous technological efforts which were implemented through decades of large-scale construction work that must have extended far into the surrounding countryside. Only in this way was a comfortable and secure life in Petra at all possible.


The main focus of the project is a better understanding of the human control of the Petra area, concerning aspects of military strategy, agricultural elements, means of communication and so on. For this purpose, detailed survey and excavation activities within the city centre were combined with extensive surveys of the hinterland, relaying on aspects of landscape archaeology. Detailed mapping of several hundred new find spots and systematic introduction into developed GIS allow gaining completely new insights as for the organization of the landscape and territory around Petra.