Investigating the Socio-Political Make-Up of Rural Petra – The Petra Hinterland Social Landscapes Project

Will M Kennedy


Recent research within the urban limits of Nabataean Petra has identified different social groups that were organized within spatially defined social ‘districts.’ Together with other archaeological evidence from within the city, this suggests a clear stratification of the cityscape into distinct social spaces. The evidence from Petra clearly highlights a Nabataean social structure that was deeply rooted in family, clan or tribal traditions, which can be traced back to the nomadic origins of the Nabataeans. While this correlates well with the evidence in urban Petra, the socio-political organization of Petra’s hinterland remains largely unknown. This paper therefore aims at offering additional insights into rural Petra’s socio-political make-up by presenting selected archaeological sites that were identified as possible markers of distinct social landscapes in Petra’s surroundings. Specifically, this contribution focuses on presumed rural Nabataean mansions. This paper examines how these structures might reflect new perspectives on the social stratification outside Petra’s city center in Nabataean-Roman times and argues that such sites contribute to our understanding of the complex social structure of Petra’s hinterland, which can be characterized as an intricate patchwork of various social groups as is assumed for urban Petra.


Petraean hinterland, rural mansions, Nabataean social structure, heterotopiai, landscape

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