Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Shadows of Petra awaken its astronomical orientation

Date:
March 5, 2014
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
During the winter solstice, the sun is filtered into the Monastery at Petra, Jordan, illuminating the podium of a deity. Just at this moment, the silhouette of the mountain opposite draws the head of a lion, a sacred animal. These are examples from a study where researchers showed how celestial events influenced the orientation of the great constructions of the Nabataeans.

During the winter solstice the light of the setting sun illuminates the podium of the Monastery at Petra, from where the silhouette of a lion's head is made out on the opposite rocks.
Credit: J. A. Belmonte - A. C. González-García

During the winter solstice, the sun is filtered into the Monastery at Petra, Jordan, illuminating the podium of a deity. Just at this moment, the silhouette of the mountain opposite draws the head of a lion, a sacred animal. These are examples from a study where researchers from Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias and CSIC (Spain) showed how celestial events influenced the orientation of the great constructions of the Nabataeans.

Related Articles


The movement of the Sun in the skies of Petra determined the way in which the monuments of this and other Natabean cities were erected. This is according to a statistical analysis on the spatial position of their palaces, temples and tombs carried out by scientists from Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) and CSIC, Spain, and the University of Perugia (Italy).

The results, published by the 'Nexus Network Journal', indicate that those great buildings were erected bearing in mind the equinoxes, solstices and other astronomical events that determined the Nabataean religion. The Nabataeans prospered in the first century BC and the first century AD in what is now Jordan and neighbouring countries.

"The Nabataean monuments are marvelous laboratories where landscape features and the events of the sun, moon and other stars interact," Juan Antonio Belmonte, researcher of IAC and coordinator of the study stressed.

"The astronomical orientations were often part of an elaborate plan," he added "and, possibly, a mark of the astral nature of their religion, which showed incredible 'hierophanies' or demonstrations of the sacred on monuments related to cultic times and worship."

A clear example is seen in Ad Deir, the Monastery at Petra. During the winter solstice, the light of the setting sun entering through the gate of the monument illuminates the sacred motab. It is a podium where some stone blocks, which represent divinities such as the god Dushara, are placed.

"The effect is spectacular, and would have only been observable during the few days closest to this solstice," commented Belmonte, who also emphasises how, just in this moment, another curious phenomenon is produced. As observed from the motab itself, the setting of the sun recreates the aspect of the head of a lion, the animal of the Nabataean goddess Al Uzza, on the opposite rocks.

Mathematical calculations also show the astronomical plan that the Urn Tomb follows, another famous monument where king Malichus II is thought to be buried. Its main gate is centred with its environment according to the equinox sunset, when the day equals the night, and the solar rays during the summer and winter solstices establish the two interior corners of the building..

"This amazing set of three alignments within the plan of the tomb, in combination with significant features in the distant horizon can hardly be ascribed to chance," underlined Belmonte. "We consider that it is a deliberate attempt to convert the hall of the Urn Tomb into a type of time-keeping device."

When in 446 AD the Christian Bishop Jason converted the Urn Tomb into the Cathedral of Petra, the solsticial markers also served as a reference in determining Christmas Eve (24 December) and St. John the Baptist (24 June), the date on which the monument was consecrated to the new religion.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Juan Antonio Belmonte, A. César González–García, Andrea Polcaro. Light and Shadows over Petra: Astronomy and Landscape in Nabataean Lands. Nexus Network Journal, 2013; 15 (3): 487 DOI: 10.1007/s00004-013-0164-6

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Shadows of Petra awaken its astronomical orientation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305084618.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2014, March 5). Shadows of Petra awaken its astronomical orientation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305084618.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Shadows of Petra awaken its astronomical orientation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140305084618.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: China Launches Moon Orbiter

Raw: China Launches Moon Orbiter

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) — China launched an experimental spacecraft Friday to fly around the moon and back to Earth in preparation for the country's first unmanned return trip to the lunar surface. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — The mission is China's next step toward automated sample-return missions and eventual manned missions to the moon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins