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Petra’s forgotten gardens uncovered after 2,000 years

A team of archaeologists have uncovered evidence of a 'hanging gardens' in the city of Petra, which was carved right out of solid rock by a civilisation called the Nabataeans. The find reveals an advanced irrigation and water storage system that has astounded experts.

Petra’s forgotten gardens uncovered after 2,000 years
The monumental 2,000-year-old pool in Petra [Credit: Leigh-Ann Bedal]
Alongside the system which allowed for the maintenance of a garden in the desert, excavations also uncovered the remnants of fountains, ponds and a huge swimming pool.

Experts suspect the gardens would have been adorned by vines, palms, extensive grassland, providing ample opportunity for residents to cultivate crops, harvest fruit, and produce olive oil and wine.

When you think about where Petra is located – in the middle of the desert in Jordan, receiving only 10-15 centimetres of rain a year – the thought of lush vegetation is remarkable.

Petra’s forgotten gardens uncovered after 2,000 years
Excavation of a water shaft in Petra [Credit: Leigh-Ann Bedal]
Leigh-Ann Bedal, associate professor of anthropology from Penn State Behrend College, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "The pool’s monumental architecture and verdant garden served as a visual celebration of the Nabataeans’ success at providing water to the city centre."

Located in modern day Jordan, Petra was built in the 1st century BC and was inhabited by about 20,000 people at its peak.

Excavations found a shaft that led water more than 10 metres downward as well as underground channels that helped control water levels during rainy seasons, revealing the true complexity of the system for the first time.

Petra’s forgotten gardens uncovered after 2,000 years
Excavating and documenting the irrigation channels on the garden terrace in Petra [Credit: Leigh-Ann Bedal]
Today, we can only imagine what the gardens looked like. Greek historian, Strabo wrote that there were “abundant springs of water both for domestic purposes and for watering gardens.” But through science, we can get an even better glimpse. Botanical studies have revealed that the garden was highly ornate with both grass and palm species. Fruit trees might have also grown there, though that’s not clear yet.

The pool was a monster, bigger than an olympic pool today. Just imagine, coming from days or weeks of walking in the desert and seeing a huge swimming pool in front of you – we can only imagine the kind of impact such a sight made.

Author: Allison Wallace | Source: Yahoo New Zealand [September 30, 2016]

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