The awesomeness of Petra

Nestled in the small country of Jordan lies a city of epic proportions…Petra! With this iconic city carved into a mountain built by the civilisation of the Nabateans, new information has arisen surrounding the reasons behind this magical place.

By the way, I’ve never actually been to Petra, but my imagination allows me to say it’s awesome, and what’s makes it all even cooler is that researchers now believe the reasoning behind the construction of this city was influenced by the sun.

Who were they?

The Nabatean civilisation is not a well known culture, nor are they well understood. They were worshippers of the sun and wealthy spice traders. Their sun deities might have been a reason behind the cities importance towards the equinox and solstice.

The city of Petra was the capital and possibly a religious centre during the solstice. The city is made up of monuments, carvings and religious structures, but most well known are the massive temples carved into rock with its long standing pillars and incredible detail.



New research being conducted by Juan Antonio Belmonte, an archaeoastronomer (they exist!) has been measuring the carvings of the structures to provide a report on how the Nabateans built Petra and the influence of the sun. The solstice provides a different light of the suns rays, as the earth is tilted in relation to our solar system. This creates a different set of light, and one that was keenly noticed by this ancient culture.

‘Dawn’ of new research

Belmonte and his team measured spatial orientation of the monuments and structures in Petra to the alignment of the sun on the horizon. The team recognised that the winter solstice would have been the most influential on the Nabateans, as some of the most important monuments were highlighted or aligned with the sun.


Inside the main monument, Ad Deir, is where the magic happens. When the sun sets during the winter solstice, a light and shadow effect is created around a sacred podium where religious rituals might have taken place.

Because the Nabatean culture is so misunderstood and 85% of the city is still be excavated, the nature of this report might not be to the tee. But Belmonte and his team have certainly opened up a can of interest on Petra, and the people that lived there.

Whatever the case may be, whether they used the sun or not to create this magnificent city, they were still a pretty awesome bunch, purely because they built this…


For a more detailed article on this research, check out Nat Geo.. they’re pretty awesome too.


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