Petra is a world famous Nabatean city carved in solid sandstone. The city was the center of a thriving civilization over 2000 years ago, and it's opulence can be seen from the magnificent stone facades which dominate the city.
As a living city, the carved facades would do little to house a thriving population. Built structures were needed for commercial, government and residential purposes. Sandstone was the material of choice, given it's hardness and high quality. The most impressive structures built at Petra are Qasr el Bint and the Grand Temple.
Most of the quarrying for these and other buildings seem to have been done at the Um Saihoun site at the outskirts of the city. The stone is extracted from the Cambrian Um Ishrin formation. This is a well indurated fluviatile quartz arenite. The lower section consists of reddish sandstone and the upper is whitish.
Detailed analysis of the variations in petrography and physical propertied have been done in the past in order to understand weathering processes, forms and mitigation approaches, in the attempt to conserve this valuable location. However, the cliff face from which the stone was extracted has not been studied for the purpose of provenance studies of building material in the city of Petra.
Fortunately, the Um Saihoun quarry site is protected, as it is part of the Petra Park national reserve. Therefore, there is no eminent danger to the quarry, although much can and should be done to present the site as part of the greater picture of Petra.
Therefore, the work to be done at the site will consist of thorough documentation of the quarry and it's surrounding infrastructure. This will include the study of the various textures and types of sandstone present in the quarry and a study of stone from the built structures in the city. The final objective of this work will be to be able to have enough information to integrate the story of the quarry and the building with the entire story of the city of Petra. It is clear that the stories are inseparable, but for awareness and presentation purposes, the data collected through this work will make the weaving of the story into the presentation of Petra a simple task.
Text by Nizar Abu-Jaber
The site is included in work-package 1
Facades carved in the sandstone rocks. Photo by Yarmouk University.
Qasr al Bint. Photo by Yarmouk University.
December 2009 New book: a special volume with papers from the QuarryScapes project soon printed.
November 2008 Final workshop: the third QuarryScapes workshop was held in Aswan 12. - 15. October