September 17, 2004

Spotlight On…   Petra: Lost City of Stone

Frederic Edwin Church.
El Khasné, Petra, 1874.
Olana State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
map of Petra in surrounding region

The ancient Nabataean city of Petra flourished two thousand years ago as a center of international commerce and culture, due in large part to its location at the crossroads of two major caravan routes between Arabia and the Mediterranean. In addition to being accomplished traders, the Nabataeans were noted for their skill in architecture and hydraulic engineering. They carved magnificent tombs directly into the rose-colored sandstone cliffs and built thousands of other structures including temples, burial chambers, theaters, shops, and houses. Engineers developed and maintained an elaborate network of terraces, damns, and irrigation channels that allowed the Nabataeans to cultivate the soil of the surrounding plateau and bring running water into the city. At the height of its prosperity, Petra was home to a diverse population over 20,000 people.

Today, you can see a selection of treasures from this magnificent desert city at Petra: Lost City of Stone, an exhibit on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum from September 14 through January 30, 2005. Over two hundred objects are on display, many appearing in the United States for the first time, including sandstone architectural artifacts, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, and metalwork. The exhibit offers Cincinnatians a unique opportunity to explore the remarkable artistic, architectural, and engineering achievements of the Nabataeans.

To make it easier for you to delve deeper into the fascinating history of Petra, we’ve selected some titles from our collection that you may find helpful:

cover of Petra Rediscovered: Lost City of the Nabataeans

Petra Rediscovered: Lost City of the Nabataeans
Glenn Markoe
939.48 fP493 2003

Petra: Lost City of the Ancient World
Christian Augé
939.48 A919pE 2000

Iain Browning
939.48 B885 1989

Petra: A Guide to the Capital of the Nabataeans
Rami G. Khouri
915.6957 K45 1986

Deities and Dolphins: The Story of the Nabataeans
Nelson Glueck
913.394 qG567

The Sarcophagus of an Ancient Civilization: Petra, Edom and the Edomites
George Livingston Robinson
913.394 R66

The Hidden City of Petra
VHS 06059

Petra: Lost City of Stone, as seen at the American Museum of Natural History, 2004. Photo by Dennis Finnin, American Museum of Natural History.

And of course, the Web is also a useful source of information about Petra and the Nabataeans. On the Cincinnati Art Museum website, you will find a brief overview of Petra and the Nabataean culture and a virtual tour of the city. The American Museum of National History offers information about daily life, commerce, religion, the architecture, and the people of Petra. In addition to a chronicle of her work excavating the Great Temple of Petra, Professor Martha Sharp Joukowsky of Brown University offers a short history of the city and the Nabataeans. The Complete Petra is an exhaustive directory of Petra-related websites and images.

Petra’s economic fortunes began to fade in the second century A.D. when political and religious changes swept through the region. These changes, coupled with devastating earthquakes that struck in the fourth and sixth centuries A.D. were the final blows to the once bustling metropolis. Eventually the city disappeared from most maps and was lost to the Western world until 1812, when it was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.

Archeologists have discovered other lost cities of the ancient world, forgotten for millennia in the rubble of time.

cover of Cities of Vesuvius

The Vanished Cities of Arabia
Beatrice Erskine
915.3 E73

Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum
Michael Grant
913.377 G762 2001

Rediscovering Antiquity: Karl Weber and the Excavation of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae
Charles Christopher Parslow
937.7 qP266 1995

Pompeii: The Day a City Died
Robert Etienne
937.7 E84 1992

Discovery of Atlantis: The Startling Case for the Island of Cyprus
Robert Sarmast
001.94 qS246 2004

Gateway to Atlantis: The Search for the Source of a Lost Civilization
Andrew Collins
980.012 C712 2002

Imagining Atlantis
Richard Ellis
001.94 E47 1998

Lost and Found: The 9,000 Treasures of Troy: Heinrich Schliemann and the Gold that got Away
Caroline Moorehead
938 M825 1996

Troy Between Greece and Rome: Local Tradition and Imperial Power
Andrew Erskine
939.21 E73 2001

Atlantis: The Lost Civilization
VHS 06900

The Odyssey of Troy
VHS 06124

Troy Revisited
VHS 04795

Time Life’s Lost Civilizations
VHS 06459

Consider attending a program related to the exhibit. The Cincinnati Art Museum has developed a wide range of special lectures and events related to the exhibit. Or make plans to attend a program at the Library:

Petra Mosaics Craft

Create your own mosaic art and learn about the ancient Near Eastern city of Petra.

Wednesday, November 3

West End
3:30 p.m., Grades K–2 *

Tuesday, November 9

3:00 p.m., Ages 6–12

Miami Township
7:00 p.m., Ages 6–12

Wednesday, November 10

10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m., Ages 3 and up *

3:00 p.m., Ages 6–10

Friday, November 12

2:00 p.m., Grades K–5

Saturday, November 13

1:30 p.m., Ages 6 and up

Main, Children’s Learning Center
2:00 p.m., Ages 3–12

Wednesday, November 17

North Central
4:00 p.m., Ages 6–12

Saturday, November 20

2:00 p.m., All ages

Hands–On Archaeology

Practice your skills at being an archaeologist. Learn about the tools and techniques used to study ancient cities, like the Near Eastern city of Petra.

Wednesday, November 3

3:00 p.m., Ages 6–12

Thursday, November 4

Pleasant Ridge
3:30 p.m., Ages 6–12

Wednesday, November 10

West End
3:00 p.m., Ages 7–12 *

Thursday, November 11

3:30 p.m., Ages 5–9

Thursday, November 11

Hyde Park
4:00 p.m., Ages 7–12

Wednesday, November 17

4:00 p.m., Ages 7 and up

Thursday, November 18

4:00 p.m., Grades K–6

4:00 p.m., Grades 4–8 *

Tuesday, November 30

3:45 p.m., Ages 6–12 *

* Registration required

For more information, call 513-369-6945.

Historical fiction is a wonderful way the explore the past. Immerse yourself in the ancient world with one of these novels from our collection:
cover of Last Act in Palmyra

Last Act in Palmyra
Lindsey Davis

Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages
Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins

The Lion of Petra
Talbot Mundy

Odysseus: A Life
Charles Rowan Beye

Elizabeth Cook

The Greek Generals Talk: Memoirs of the Trojan War
Phillip Parotti

The Greek Treasure: A Biographical Novel of Heinrich and Sophia Schliemann
Irving Stone

The Songs of the Kings
Barry Unsworth

The Gates of Hell: A Mystery of Alexander the Great
P.C. Doherty

The Last Days of Pompeii
Edward Bulwer Lytton

Robert Harris

Ross Leckie

Queenmaker: A Novel of King David’s Queen
India Edghill

The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther
Rebecca Kohn

The African Quest
Lyn Hamilton

The Buried Pyramid
Jane Linskold

The Last Camel Died at Noon
Elizabeth Peters

The Seventh Scroll
Wilbur Smith

A View of the Treasury, Petra. © 2004 Lightborne Inc.