Excavations in the Lower Market in Petra (Jordan), capital of the ancient kingdom of Nabsataea, uncovered the remnants of a monumental pool-complex at the heart of the ancient city. It played an important role in the socio-political life of Petra during the Nabataean and Roman periods. The mere presence of a paradeidos in Petra symbolized the Nabataean king's power and helped to legitimize his place among contemporary rulers. The paradeisos is an example of a gratuitous display of conspicuous consumption, a symbol of the flourishing status of Petra during its Classical era.
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During a two-month field season in the summer of 1998, a survey and excavation was conducted in the Lower Market, a large unbuilt area at the heart of the ancient city of Petra (Jordan). The primary goal of the Petra Lower Market Survey was to investigate the area of the site traditionally designated as the Lower Market, in order to determine its function, historical development, and relationship to the other monuments in the city's civic center. Excavations focused mainly on the southern half of the Lower Market, where substantial architectural features were visible on the surface. The excavations revealed the remains of a monumental pool-complex, with an island-pavilion and an elaborate hydraulic system irrigating a large earthen terrace. The identification of a pool-complex at Petra prompts a re-examination of the long-held interpretation of the city. It is argued here that in its first phase (end of the 1st c. BCE), the Pool-Complex functioned as a royal paradeisos, part of a large palace complex that included the Great Temple. Around the time of Roman annexation in 106 CE, Petra was transformed from a ceremonial center into a civic center. The Great Temple was converted into a theatron (bouleuterion) and the Pool-Complex now functioned as a fashionable public park. The Petra Pool-Complex played an important role in the socio-political life of Petra during the Nabataean and Roman periods. The mere presence of a paradeidos in Petra symbolized the Nabataean king's power and helped to legitimize his place among contemporary rulers who utilized architectural programs, gardens, and water display as political metaphor. The paradeisos is an example of a gratuitous display of conspicuous consumption, a symbol of the flourishing status of Petra during its Classical era.
Leigh-Ann Bedal is a lecturer at Pennsylvania State University, Erie/The Behrend College, where she teaches anthropology and archaeology. She received her B.A. in Anthropology from California State University, Northridge, her M.A. in Mesopotamian Art and Archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. She held a post-doctoral fellowship in Landscape Architecture at Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University) in 2000–2001. In addition to field experience at Nineveh (Iraq), Tell Ahmar/Til Barsip (Syria), and Stabiae (Italy), she has been excavating in Petra (Jordan) since 1994, initially with the Brown University excavations of the Great Temple, and presently as the Director of the Petra Garden and Pool-Complex Excavations.