Petra – Holy City from the Perspective of Art, Architecture, inscriptions and Other Features


  • Eyad Almasri Hashemite Univeristy in Zarqa, Jordan
  • Firas Alawneh Hashemite Univeristy in Zarqa, Jordan



Petra, Nabataean religion, Nabataean architecture, Nabataean inscriptions, Holy city


Scholars who have written about the city of Petra have concentrated on the history and archaeology of the city. And, while some of them have written about Nabataean religion, only few of them mentioned information about the holiness of the city; specifically, if it was worshiped as a deity. The aim of this study is to fulfil a gap in Nabataean religion in general and, in particular, re-examine the status of Petra in their religion. In addition to the archaeological evidence, such as buildings, art, and features, the study is based on written resources, such as historical sources and Nabataean inscriptions found in Petra and other cities.

PlumX Metrics of this article


Diodorus of Sicily. Books XIX, 66-110, trans. R. M. Greer. London 1954.

Strabo. The Geography of Strabo XVI, trans. H. L. Jones. London 1983.

Almasri E., Al-Ajlouny F. and Alghazawi R. 2012. An artistic and mythological study of a Nabataean female Sphinx from Petra. MAA 12, 159-170.

Almasri E., Alawneh F. and Bala’awi F. 2012. Nabataean jewellery and accessories. ANES 48, 150-175.

Almasri E., Mustafa M. Bala’awi F. and Al Rousan R. 2018. Medusa in Nabataean, Hatran and Palmyrene Cultures. MAA 18, 89-102.

Al-Muheisen Z. and Villenuve F. 1994. Découvertes Nouvelles à Khirbet edh-Dharih (Jordanie), 1991-1994: Autour du Sanctuaire Nabatéen et Romain. Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 735-757.

Al-Muheisen Z. and Villeneuve F. 1999. Khirbet edh-Dharih. Doss A Paris 244, 54-59.

Al-Muheisen Z. 1996. Petra, The Arab Immortal City. Amman.

Al-Salameen Z. 2012. Living Beings in Nabataean Iconography: Symbolism and Function. In Kiraz and Z. Al-Aalameen (eds), From Ugarit to Nabataea, 15-75. Piscataway.

Al-Salameen Z. and Falahat H. 2014. An inscribed Nabataean bronze object dedicated to Obodas the god from Wadi Musa, Southern Jordan. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 146/4, 293-307.

Augé C. 1990. Sur la figure de Tyché en Nabatène et dans la province d’Arabie. In F. Zayadine (ed.), Petra and the Caravan Cities, 131-146. Amman.

Belmonte J., Gonzalez-Garcia A. and Polcaro A. 2013. Light and shadows over Petra: Astronomy and landscape in Nabataean lands. Nexus Network Journal, 487-501.

Curtiss S.I. 1900. High place and altar at Petra. PEFQS 4/32, 350-355.

El-Khouri L. 2006-2007. Nabataean Pilgrimage as Seen through their archaeological remains. ARAM 18-19, 325-340.

El-Khouri L. 2007. Fertility as an element in late Nabataaean beliefs: the archaeological evidence considered. Levant 1/39, 81-90.

Farajat S. and Nawafleh S. 2005. Report on the al-Khazna Court Yard Excavation at Petra (2003 season). ADAJ 49, 373-393.

Glueck N. 1952. The Zodiac of Khirbet et-Tannur. BASOR 126, 5-10.

Glueck N. 1965. Deities and Dolphins. The Story of the Nabataeans. New York.

Glueck N. 1970. The Other Side of Jordan. London.

Hammond P. 1973. The Nabataeans: Their History, Culture and Archaeology. (SMA). Gothenburg.

Hammond P. 2002. A Note on a Zodiac Lamp from Petra. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 2/134, 165-168.

Healey J. 1993. The Nabataean Tomb Inscription of Mada’in Salih. Oxford.

Healey J. 2001. The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus. Boston.

Hoskins F. E. 1906. A third “High-Place” at Petra. The Biblical World 5/27, 385-90.

Janif M. 2006-2007. Sacred time in Petra and Nabataea: some perspectives. ARAM 18-19, 341-361.

Janson H. W. and Janson D. J. 1977. History of Art. 2nd edition. Library of Congress, Washington.

Joukowsky M. and Basile J. 2001. More pieces in the Petra Great Temple Puzzle. BASOR 324, 43-58.

Joukowsky M. 2002. The Petra Great Temple: A Nabataean architectural miracle. Near Eastern Archaeology, 4/65, 235.

Kammerer A. 1930. Petra et la Nabatène, vol. 1. Paris.

Kennedy S. 1925. Petra and Its History and Mountains. London.

Khairy N. 1990. The 1981 Petra Excavations, vol. 1. Wiesbaden.

Khouri L. 2002. The Nabataean Terracotta Figurines. (BAR-IS 1034). Oxford.

MacDonald J. 2006. The Ritual Use of Water by the Nabataeans at Petra. Master Thesis, Department of Anthropology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

McKenzie J. 1990. The Architecture of Petra. Oxford.

McKenzie J. 2003. Carvings in the desert: The sculpture of Petra and Khirbet et-Tannur. In G. Markoe (ed.), Petra, Rediscovered. Lost City of the Nabataeans. 165-191. London.

Milik T. and Starcky J. 1975. Inscriptions recemment decouvertes a Petra. ADAJ 20, 111-130.

Obinson G. L. 1901. The newly discovered “high place” at Petra in Edom. The Biblical World 1/17, 6-16.

Parlasca I. 1990. Terrakotten aus Petra. Ein neues Kapitel nabatäischer Archäologie. In F. Zayadine (ed.), Petra and the Caravan Cities, 87-105. Amman.

Patrich J. 1990. The Formation of Nabataean Art 2. Prohibition of a Graven Image among the Nabataeans. Jerusalem.

Perry M. 2002. Life and death in Nabataea: The North Ridge tombs and Nabataean burial practices. Near Eastern Archaeology 4/65, 265-270.

George L. 1908. The High-Places of Petra. The Biblical World 1/31, 8-21.

Raymond H. 2008. Cultic Niches in the Nabataean Landscape: A Study in the Orientation, Facade Ornamentation, Sanctuary Organization, and Function of Nabataean Cultic Niches. Master Thesis, Department of Anthropology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Sachet I. 2010. Feasting with the dead: Funerary Marzea in Petra. In L. Weeks (ed.), Death and Burial in Arabia and Beyond, 249-262. (BAR-IS 2107). Oxford.

Starcky J. 1982. Quelques Aspects de la Religion des Nabateens. SHAJ 1, 196-196.

Teixidor J. 1977. The Pagan God, Popular Religion in Greco-Roman Near East. New Jersey.

Tholbecq L., Delcros S. and Paridaens N. 2014. The “high place” of Jabal Khubthah: New insights on a Nabataean-Roman suburb of Petra. Journal of Roman Archaeology 27, 374-391.

Villeneuve F. and Al-Muheisen Z. 2003. Dharih and Tannur, Sanctuaries of Central Nabataea. In G. Markoe (ed.), Petra, Rediscovered. Lost City of the Nabataeans. 83-100. London.

Wadeson L. 2011a. Nabataean tomb complex at Petra: new insights in the light of recent fieldwork. In A. Mackay (ed.), Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies 32, 1-24. Auckland.

Wadeson L. 2011b. Nabataean façade tombs: A new chronology. SHAJ 11, 507-528.

Wenning R. 2001. The Betyls of Petra. BASOR 324, 79-95.

Wenning R. 2003.The Rock-cut Architecture of Petra. In E. A. Myers (ed.), Petra Rediscovered, 133-141. New York.

Wright G.R.H. 1967-1968. Recent discoveries in the sanctuary of the Qasr Bint Far’un at Petra II. Some aspects concerning the architecture and sculpture. ADAJ, 12/13, 20-29.




How to Cite

Almasri, Eyad, and Firas Alawneh. 2018. “Petra – Holy City from the Perspective of Art, Architecture, Inscriptions and Other Features”. Studies in Ancient Art and Civilisation 22 (June):65-94.