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Petra: The Definitive Guide

Petra Monuments
Text from "Petra Book" by Jane Taylor

The Outer Siq

If it seems strange to us to find tombs at the entrance to a city, it would not have been so for the Nabataeans and their contemporaries. In many cities, including Palmyra in Syria, and Rome with its catacombs along the Appian Way, a necropolis at the entrance was a standard feature, the contemplation of mortality apparently having few of the terrors with which later centuries have invested it.

A handful of tombs are carved into the rocks surrounding the open space in front of the Treasury, and along the sides of the Outer Siq – a curious misnomer for an area inside the city. Just beyond the point where Wadi Mousa turns left into the Outer Siq, a monumental heap of rocks on the left-hand side is all that remains of a once fine double-fronted tomb, which was unusual enough to catch the eye and pen of Léon de Laborde in 1827...

At the end of the Outer Siq tombs proliferate to such an extent that it seems as if all available rock-faces were appropriated in honour of the Nabataean dead. Judging from the range of size and elaboration of the tombs, every level of economic capacity is represented – except the very poor who could probably not have afforded even the smallest carved tomb.

Aneishu Tomb

... on higher ground to the north-west, is a handsome façade with a double cornice and a single, monumental crow-step crowning it. It is Tomb 813, now known as the Tomb of 'Uneishu from a fragment of inscription found on a loose stone which may or may not have originated in this tomb. The inscription named one ''Uneishu, brother of Shaqilath, Queen of the Nabataeans...' A Queen Shaqilath appeared on Nabataean coins uninterruptedly for over 60 years: first was the second wife of Aretas IV; second a 'sister', or consort, of Aretas' son and heir Malichus II, and mother of Rabbel II, for whom she was regent for the first six years of his reign.

The Shaqilath connection dates the tomb to anywhere between AD 15 and 76. However, the lack of a king's name suggests the period of regency in AD 70-76. As 'brother' was the term used for the chief minister, 'Uneishu may have been the minister of Queen Shaqilath II.

Street of Facades View in Photo Gallery

On the other side of the wadi from these westward-looking façades, serried ranks of small tombs climb the rocks on the left of the theater towards the High Place of Sacrifice. They are called the Streets of Façades, and indeed they have the look of intimate thoroughfares, designed for ease of social communication in the next world.

All are simple in design, most having a plain rectangular entrance and their only adornment one or two rows of small crow-steps. A few have a single large crow-step, and others an elegant rounded top.