Documentary Film based on Gibson's book: Qur'anic Geography
 

 

The Sacred City from Glasshouse Media on Vimeo.

 

Writings by Guest Researchers
 Articles by Thomas Kummert  Below: Thomas Kummert Articles. Click on the illustration to open the PDf file.

The Nabataean Culture & Mada'in Saleh

This southern capital of the Nabataeans is a unique site in the northern Hejaz hill lands of Saudi Arabia close to the old Lihyan capital of Dedan today's Al Ula. About 130 monumental tomb facades dated between 50 to 70 AD are cut into the huge rocky boulders typical for the area. The famous old Hejaz railway is running right through this breath taking archeological site. Different to other UNESCO World Heritage sites Mada'in Saleh has very few visitors and this creates a special feeling of being alone in this unique site.

The Nabataean Culture & It's Petra Capital

If you haven't been to Petra you have missed one of the world's wonders. Petra is a must see when visiting Jordan, or better the reason to visit Jordan. There is a big surprise when you come to the end of the long narrow canon, the so-called Greek temple like Treasury. Petra is a unique city with over 800 monumental tomb facades and 3,000 tombs in total, including various temples, amphitheatre, baths and Roman colonnades. It is said that over 50,000 people lived at Petra and that it had lust gardens supported by a sophisticated watering systems.

Nabataean History & Their Kings

It might sound surprising, but the Nabataeans were never the sole inhabitants in, nor sole rulers over their territory, as long as their traders and camel caravans could move freely and unharmed. It also transpired that Nabataeans selected a leader amongst the key trading families and not a sovereign ruler or king. This is confirmed by the fact that at festivities the "king" served his guests and subordinates and that he was wearing simple cloths.

Nabataean Trading Activities
Nabataeans were true Arab traders controlling about 25% of total Roman trade. They established proper trading offices in Rome and various Mediterranean islands to secure the entire supply chain. Starting to fully control the Incense Road they later took on the last portion of the Silk Road as well. Not only did they control the land routes, but also the sea routes via the Red Sea. Their order list had more than 100 rare items including Asian spices, which they shipped in themselves sailing up to China and down the African east coast

The Nabataean Pantheon & Their Gods
The main deity was Dushara supported by three goddesses Al Uzza, Allat and Manat, which were also known around Mecca and Medinah in pre-Islamic times. Nabataeans also built temples out side their territory proving the fact of their trading dominance. These gods were worship by using simple uncarved stones so-called baityles, which were sculptured into votive niches to represent the presence of gods.

Petra's Great Temple - Leading Nabataean Excavation

The Great Temple in Petra is the only Nabataean building fully excavated. It took US Brown University over 14 years to unravel the hidden ruins previously overseen. The few remains were regarded as not important, as there were no evident standing structures revealing that there has been a huge temple complex underneath covering 11,500 m². But be assured these excavations revealed much about the Nabataean architecture and culture. Over 200 special research projects put many missing pieces of a remarkable mosaic together to complete the big Nabataean picture and proved various previous assumptions.

 

Nabataean Votive Niches - An Important Place of Worship

With this article I am going to extend my series on the Nabataean culture and cover an interesting subject little written about. Votive niches played an important part in Nabataean worshiping and Bedouin religious belief in the so-called "dark ages" before the spreading of Islam. For this purpose I have revisited Petra and its many places of sacrifice normal tourists never see, as they are very focused on and so overwhelmed by the unique monumental Nabataean tomb facades. In my research I have looked at over 200 niches including about 20 in Saudi Mada'in Saleh.

Nabataean Script - The Basis of Arabic Writing

This is really a success story written by the least expected suspects in history, our little known Nabataeans. They were Arab nomads from the Saudi Arabian Nafud desert and are the true creators of our modern Arabic alphabet. They also were the first to write letters together, which is common standard today in most parts of the world, except in certain countries in Asia. 2,200 years ago the first Nabataean script was carved into rock faces. To date over 4,000 Nabataean texts carved into rock were found across the Arabian Peninsula, on some Mediterranean islands and even in Rome capital of the Roman Empire.

Nabataean Pottery - Unique Eggshell Thin Ceramic Ware

Very little has been written about Nabataean pottery, despite the fact that it is remarkably thin and mass produced. Pottery was used for various purposes, such as religious ceremonies and well off Nabataean households were well equipped with over hundred pottery items. The first true Nabataean ceramic pieces were produced around 75 BC during the rule of King Aretas III. Quickly Nabataeans developed their own very distinctive and independent pottery style. This is remarkable, as they adopted many Hellenistic styles and items in their architecture, as seen from their famous tomb facades.

Nabataean Culture - Day to Day Life in Ancient Petra

Petra's wealthy inhabitants lived in luxury houses with two floors, interior court yards and wide staircases leading to the upper floors with surrounding balconies. Walls were extensively stuccoed and colorfully painted in Hellenistic style. All homes had running water with sophisticated lead plumbing. The large court yards had landscaped gardens and water fountains to cool the air during hot summer days. Petra residents were frequent theatre visitors enjoying Greek comedies with actors wearing costumes and masks and being accompanied by musicians and singers.

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Dr. Jesse Benjamin  Of Nubians and Nabateans: Implications of research on neglected dimensions of ancient world history, Dr. Jesse Benjamin, Journal of Asian and African Studies, Nov 2001 v36 i4 p361(22) 2001 Copyright: E.J. Brill

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