previous next


A Nabatean sacred compound on an isolated mountain named Jebel et-Tannur, 495 m above sea level. The site is N of Petra, capital of the Nabatean kingdom, SE of the Dead Sea, and about 0.8 km off the main road, the King's Way of biblical times, Via Nova Traiana of the Romans.

A narrow path runs from the base of the mountain, where there is a spring and a nymphaeurn, to the flattened mountain top, whence a broad flight of steps leads up to a gate in the E wall of the compound. Within the gate is the outer court, 14.1 square, paved with flagstones and with porticos on the N and S sides. On the N side of the court, closer to the E than the W wall, stood an altar, near a small pool for water used in the ritual. A gate on the W side of this court led to an inner court in which stood the shrine. The W wall of the court was decorated with pilasters and attached columns with niches between them, all surmounted by a frieze and a gable. The frieze was of triglyphs and rosettes, instead of metopes. A relief of Atargatis as the goddess of vegetation, above the main gate to the outer shrine belongs to a later period, a change of style also evident in the substitution of Corinthian capitals for the original Nabatean ones.

Within the inner court (the outer shrine), 9.3 by 8.55 m and paved with flagstones, stood the inner shrine, or holy of holies, facing E. Unlike other known Nabatean temples, this shrine was a solid construction, with access to a flat roof by a flight of steps attached to its W wall. Pilasters decorated the E facade of the inner shrine, and the corner ones bore reliefs of Atargatis as the goddess of dolphins and of corn. The W facade had a frieze of rosettes, egg-and-dart, vine trellis, and leaves; above the frieze was a decorated arch. Perhaps the relief of Zeus-Haddad and another one of Atargatis came from here. In front of the inner shrine and built into the floor of the outer one were two receptacles covered by a slab of stone, for the bones of sacrificed animals. The Nabatean ritual included burning of incense, animal sacrifice, and a sacred meal. The incense was possibly burnt on an altar on top of the inner shrine, the sacrifices were offered in the court, and the sacred meal was taken in triclinia N and S of the outer court, where there were also lodgings for pilgrims and priests.

A large relief of Tyche supported by a winged victory has been found. Around the Tyche the symbols of the zodiac are arranged in a way suggesting that the Nabateans celebrated the New Year both in spring and autumn. The temple had three periods of activity: end of the 2d c. B.C., possibly late 1st c. B.C., and early 2d c. A.D., to which most of the sculpture is attributed.


N. Glueck, Deities and Dolphins (1965) passim.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: