Antiquities and Archaeology News Jordan

Another museum for Petra

World heritage site to get an institution built to “international standards”, but what will happen to the two existing museums?

The temples and tombs of the ancient city of Petra are carved directly into the sandstone rock face. Photo: © Editions Gelbart, Jean-Jacques Gelbart

A museum of “international standards” will soon be built at the World Heritage Site of Petra in Jordan, raising questions about what will happen to the ancient city’s two existing institutions. The announcement came in late December from Mohammed Nawafleh, the chief commissioner of the Petra Development and Tourism Region.

The ancient city of Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans, who settled in southern Jordan by the late fourth century BC. They traded in frankincense and spices, and controlled caravan routes that linked China, India, South Arabia and the Mediterranean. The stunning city of sandstone temples and tombs cut directly into the rock face was abandoned in the 12th century AD, and only became known to Europeans after the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt entered the area disguised as a sheikh in 1812.

Named a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985 and made famous in the film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, Petra is today Jordan’s most popular heritage destination. According to the Petra National Trust, it was visited by around 450,000 people in 2013, though this was a significant drop from 2010’s record number of 975,000 visitors. Officials hope the new museum will encourage tourists to spend more time in the ancient city. It will present the history of Petra and the Nabataeans, as well as house antiquities, but it is unclear what this means for the site’s two existing museums: the Petra Nabataean Museum, opened in 1994, and the Petra Archaeological Museum, opened in 1963.

The land for the museum has already been acquired through Jordan’s Social Security Corporation, and tenders are expected to be considered soon. The museum is to be built outside the 755 sq. km archaeological park and Japan’s International Cooperation Agency has given a $7m grant to help fund the construction.

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