Posts Tagged ‘Ancient cities’ – Petra – was a “fairy city of pink sandstone”, mysterious, legendary and long forgotten.

More than 3,000 temples, tombs and thousands of caves carved out of sandstone rocks, all was lost to the western world, and erased from our memory for over a thousand years.

Ancient city of Petra was built in the harsh desert of southern Jordan and situated in Mt. Seir, about 80 kilometers south of the Dead Sea and 2,775 feet above sea-leve. It lwas first inhabited by a Semitic-speaking tribe of the Edomites, mentioned in the Bible as descendants of Esau, the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.


From the first century B.C. to the third century A.D., Petra was one of the most influential and prosperous commercial centres in antiquity.

History has long been very silent in regard to the life, art and religion of the Edomites, but slowly, archaeologists begin to unveil Petra’s oldest secrets.


Recently, a team of international archaeologists led by Professor Susan Alcock of the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP) unearthed terrace farming at ancient desert city of Petra dated to the first century.

The discovery is an evidence into successful and extensive water management and agricultural production in and around the ancient desert city.

This development seems to be due to the ingenuity and enterprise of the ancient Nabataeans, whose prosperous kingdom had its capital at Petra until the beginning of the second century.


The successful terrace farming of wheat, grapes and possibly olives, resulted in a vast, green, agricultural “suburb” to Petra in an otherwise inhospitable, arid landscape. This terrace farming remained extensive and robust through the third century.

Based on surface finds and comparative data collected by other researchers in the area, however, it is clear that this type of farming continued to some extent for many centuries, until the end of the first millennium (between A.D. 800 and 1000).


It was time, when ancient Petra was under extensive cultivation is a testament to past strategies of land management, and is all the more striking in light of the area’s dry and dusty environment today.


Dating the start of extensive terrace farming at Petra to the beginning of the common era has important historical implications, according to Cloke, because this date coincides closely with the Roman annexation of the Nabataean Kingdom in A.D. 106.

“No doubt the explosion of agricultural activity in the first century and the increased wealth that resulted from the wine and oil production made Petra an exceptionally attractive prize for Rome,” researcher Christian Cloke, a doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati, and one of the researchers involved in the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP), said.

“The region around Petra not only grew enough food to meet its own needs, but also would have been able to provide olives, olive oil, grapes and wine for trade. This robust agricultural production would have made the region a valuable asset for supplying Roman forces on the empire’s eastern frontier.”


This canyon dam and water pipe were part of ancient Petra’s complex water-management system.
On large stretches of land north of Petra, inhabitants built complex and extensive systems to dam wadis (riverbeds) and redirect winter rainwater to hillside terraces used for farming.

Rainfall in the region occurs only between October and March, often in brief, torrential downpours, so it was important for Petra’s inhabitants to capture and store all available water for later use during the dry season. Over the centuries, the Nabataeans of Petra became experts at doing so.

“Perhaps most significantly,” said Cloke, “it’s clear that they had considerable knowledge of their surrounding topography and climate. The Nabataeans differentiated watersheds and the zones of use for water: water collected and stored in the city itself was not cannibalized for agricultural uses.”

Scientists presented their findings on Jan. 4, 2013 at the Archaeological Institute of America Annual Meeting in Seattle, in a paper titled “On the Rocks: Landscape Modification and Archaeological Features in Petra’s Hinterland.”

Hidden in the middle of the jungle, archaeologists are trying to uncover ancient secrets of Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City.

It is a place that has remained unknown to most of the outside world for centauries and even today, very few people are aware of its existence.

Ciudad Perdida, Spanish for “Lost City,” is one of Colombia’s most spectacular cultural heritage sites.

The “Lost City ” was inhabited by the Tayrona people until the end of the 16th century and tucked away within the lush jungles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta not far from the Colombian coastline.

Ciudad Perdida, is made up of hundreds of stone terraces and rings, which archaeologists believe were used as foundations for temples, dwellings and plazas.


Ciudad Perdida is situated atop a mountain in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a UNESCO-inscribed Biosphere Reserve. Photo: poirpom/flickr


Although the Tayrona built more than 250 towns across a 2,000 square mile area, few are as large or as impressive as Ciudad Perdida, which is believed to have been a regional center of political, social and economic power, home to around 3,000 people.


After diseases introduced by the Spanish forced the Tayrona to abandon the city, it was forgotten until 1975, when looters accidentally rediscovered the site in their search for pre-Columbian treasures.It was taken over in 1976 by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH), which began clearing forest and researching the site.

In 2009, GHF began working in partnership with ICANH to preserve Ciudad Perdida’s ancient features and to engage the local communities as major stakeholders in the site’s sustainable development.

In August this year, the growing global interest in Ciudad Perdida provided the lead story for CCTV’s Americas Now, an international broadcast news magazine.


View of the center area of Ciudad Perdida (“Lost City”) in north-eastern Colombia. Image credit: Wanderingstan

The program followed a tour group led by Dr. Santiago Giraldo, Director of GHF’s Colombia Heritage Program, as they trekked to the Lost City. Along the way, they met members of the Kogi indigenous tribe – descendants of the Tayrona – who are helped by the Tayrona Foundation for Archaeological and Environmental Research (FIAAT), which Dr. Giraldo helped to establish.

“What we would like, with the indigenous community and the peasant community, is to keep things at a manageable level, so that they have better livelihoods, but it does not get out of hand,” Dr. Giraldo said.


A boulder with carved markings, believed to be a map of the area around Ciudad Perdida. Image credit:

Among those in the tour group featured on Americas Now was Dr. Barra O’Dannabhain, an archaeologist from the University College Cork in Ireland.

It was his first visit to the site, which he called one of the most impressive he’s ever seen. He insisted on the need to conserve it.


Ciudad Perdida has remained unknown to the outside world for a very long time. Image credit: Rutacol

“This has a relevance beyond Colombia,” he said, “because the story of Ciudad Perdida is of a vibrant, impressive culture that was wiped out by contact with Europeans…

We owe it to the dead generations, and also to their descendants who still inhabit the area today, to tell more about the story of what happened there.” based on information provided by Global Heritage Fund