PETRA: The Treasury Plaza

 The Treasury Monument in Petra has always been a mystery. No one was sure when the monument was built, nor what its purpose was. Secondly, since the bottom monument was damaged by repeated flooding in the last millennium, the plaza in front of the Treasury has been covered with tons of debris. Some of us have often wondered what was below all that material. Well, that's what the mystery is all about to end, as the Jordanian Ministry of Antiquites start their excavation of the Plaza area in front of the Treasury Monument. The excavation is being carried out by two archeologists, Suleiman Farajat and Sami Al-Nawafleh. In December 2004 they presented a paper on their dig at the "Second International Conference on Science and Technology in Archaeology and Conservation". Their paper will be published in the May to December 2004 Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.

from the door

Above: When standing on the Treasury Steps you can look back at the siq and see how high you are above everyone. You can also see how level the plaza area is. This is all an illusion, as the Plaza floor is really several meters below ground level.


When you see the Treasury, it looks like it is at ground level. You can walk right up to it. Upon closer inspection you can see that the front of the Treasury was damaged and that it has been repaired sometime back in history. If the plaza is far below the surface then the Treasury would have been high up on the side of the cliff.

The best way to estimate the level of the plaza floor, is to look at the tombs that are on your right as you exit the siq. At this point, most people are looking at the Treasury, and they fail to look right. Right beside them is the 'top' of a djinn rock, and just behind it is the 'top' of a tomb peeking out of the ground. This tomb has recently been excavated, and now tourists can clamber down some stairs to see inside.

Right: Ground penetrating radar has been conducted and doorways 'underneath the Treasury' and a fountain in the middle of the plaza were discoverd. The excavations in front of the Treasury have uncovered one of these doors, as seen to the right! 

Later in 2004 we hope to publish a report by Suleiman Farajat and Sami Al-Nawafleh about their 2003 excavation of the Treasury Plaza.

Special thanks to Andrew Johnson for these four great pictures taken on October 18, 2003. The pictures to the right show us the steps and a doorway that are part of the excavation. Below you can see some of the excavations that are now under a protective grating.

When Petra was first discovered by Johannes L. Burckhardt in 1812, there was a stream running through the siq and in front of the Treasury monument. This stream can be seen in many old paintings. The dam in front of the siq was repaired in the 1960's so that the water flowed through an ancient tunnel and away from the center of Petra. The area in front of the Treasury was leveled to make it easier for tourists. During the last couple of years there has been an ongoing effort to clean up the siq and restore some of the Roman road as well as other sites within the siq.