domingo, 28 de setembro de 2008
Petra (from πέτρα "petra", rock in Greek; Arabic: البتراء, Al-Butrā) is an archaeological site in Jordan, lying 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. It is famous for having many stone structures carved into the rock. The long-hidden site was revealed to the Western world by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. It was famously described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" in a Newdigate prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon. Burgon had not actually visited Petra, which remained accessible only to Europeans accompanied by local guides with armed escorts, until after World War I.
Rekem is an ancient name for Petra and appears in Dead Sea scrolls such as 4Q462 associated with Mount Seir. Additionally, Eusebius and Jerome (Onom. sacr. 286, 71. 145, 9; 228, 55. 287, 94) assert that Rekem was the native name of Petra, supposedly on the authority of Josephus (Antiquities iv. 7, 1~ 4, 7), Pliny the Elder and other writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans, Aramaic-speaking Semites, and the centre 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.
Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabateans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, in effect creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabateans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. Thus, stored water could be employed even during prolonged periods of drought, and the city prospered from its sale.
Although in ancient times Petra might have been approached from the south (via Saudi Arabia on a track leading around Jabal Haroun, Aaron's Mountain, on across the plain of Petra), or possibly from the high plateau to the north, most modern visitors approach the ancient site from the east. The impressive eastern entrance leads steeply down through a dark and narrow gorge (in places only 3-4 metres 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 ("the Treasury") hewn directly out of the sandstone cliff.
A little farther from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr is a massive theatre, so placed as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view; and at the point where the valley opens out into the plain the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. Indeed, the amphitheatre has actually 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-coloured mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures, and lined with tombs cut from the rock in the form of towers.