The funerary landscape of Petra: results from a new study


  • Lucy Wadeson


The landscape of Petra is characterized by hundreds of rock-cut tombs, including facade tombs, block tombs, shaft tombs, and pit graves, which are a testament to the variety and richness of Nabataean funerary architecture. The two main issues that dominate studies of these tombs include their dating and the funerary practices associated with them. New insights into the chronology of the facade tombs and their role in the Nabataean funerary tradition were provided through the author's new in-depth study of the tomb interiors. The next stage of research has been to examine the area outside the tombs, their topographical setting, and the development of the cemeteries, in the context of the Funerary Topography of Petra Project (FTPP). Part of this project involves determining the relationships between the funerary architecture and the natural environment of Petra, and between the monumental and non-monumental tombs. This paper argues that the topography and geology of Petra had a profound effect on the form, layout, and location of the tombs, but also emphasizes the ideological concepts involved. The result was the variety and distinctiveness of the funerary architecture at Petra. The architectural relationship between different types of tombs is also explored, which ultimately sheds further light on their chronological relationship (in accordance with more recent investigations into chronology). The results of this study enhance our understanding of the nature of Nabataean rock-cut architecture and how conceptions of funerary space changed over time.





How to Cite

Wadeson, L. (2012). The funerary landscape of Petra: results from a new study. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 42, 99–127. Retrieved from