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Petra - Jordan

Petra Under Threat from Looting and Vandalism


Petra is a magnificent site in Jordan recognised by UNESCO for its immense historical significance and outstanding universal value. It is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture. However, the site is now under threat of destruction from increased looting and vandalism.

Petra has been inhabited since prehistoric times and is described as a Nabataean ‘caravan-city’, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. It was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia, and has been classed as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It has been protected and preserved within Petra Archaeological Park. However, archaeologists from Brown University have reported a significant increase in criminal damage within the Park.

What has caused most concern relates to areas that have been excavated by the team previously. In at least two of the features where Brown University had prepared test squares, individuals have come during the night and have dug into the area trying to find artefacts.  In addition several new looting trenches have been found as well as one baetyl feature and inscription which had been vandalised.

The damage caused by looting is nothing new and some of the more iconic buildings at Petra bear witness to this. A giant urn carved above the entrance to the Monastery bears the marks of hundreds of gunshots. The local Bedouin tribesmen living in and among the ancient ruins say the damage was caused when local men would open fire with rifles, seeking the loot thought to be inside the urn which is actually made of solid stone.

Brown University is lobbying for additional security at the site and further investigations to find the individuals responsible for the damage. However, this is currently hindered by lack of funds for the Petra Archaeological Park.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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