Al Khazneh- An Ancient Building carved from a single block of stone

By: The Scribe on Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Most ancient buildings were constructed in essentially the same way. Blocks or bricks of hardened clay, mud or stone were fitted together to form walls. These blocks were held together using some form of mortar- a substance which would harden and keep the blocks immobilized so that they could withstand the weather and wear and tear of everyday life. They were built by many different cultures with varying degrees of skill. Some had blocks that were fitted together so tightly that it was difficult to slip a piece of paper between them and they may have appeared to be made from a single piece of stone.

Al Khazneh was built very differently. This is a building found in the Jordanian city of Petra. It has beautiful soaring lines and an intricate façade that begs the question of how it could be created from individual bricks or blocks. The fact is- it wasn’t. This beautiful building is a true marvel as it was carved from a rose colored sandstone rock face.image

The city where Al Khazneh is located is a bit of a mystery as well. Petra was believed to have been founded around the 6th century BCE and it is located in the country of Jordan, where it is one of the country’s major tourist attractions. Originally it served as a center of the Nabataean caravan trade routes. It was built within rock cuts and was incredibly easy to defend. To reach the city from the east, for example, it is necessary to travel through a deep rock cleft. The area formed a sort of natural oasis and water was plentiful. The Nabataeans were able to create dams and reservoirs so they could channel and store the water in the area, making it a refuge that was also incredibly hospitable.

Because much of the city is carved from rock it is no wonder that the Nabataeans were known for their carving ability. Al Khazneh is considered to be the pinnacle of their carving, however. They removed the rock by exploiting its natural fissure lines and were able to recycle the stone that had been cut away for other buildings. The façade of the building has columns and is designed with many familiar elements of Western architecture. The Nabataeans had contact with other cultures such as the Greeks due to their active participation in trading items such as frankincense, myrrh and other luxury items. At its height, the Nabataean empire reached as far north as Damascus and as far south as Hegra.image

Although Al Khazneh is thousands of years old it continues to attract attention even now. The building has been used as a backdrop for several movies. Two of the most famous include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Transformers; and Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen. While the purpose of Al Khazneh varies depending on which film you are watching the original purpose for this unique and beautiful building is still a mystery.


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