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Petra

October 18, 2003 — July 6, 2004

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Deep within the deserts of Jordan lies the ancient city of Petra. Through a narrow gorge it emerges into view, revealing awe-inspiring monuments cut into the surrounding cliffs. What is this astonishing city? Who built it, and why?

Two thousand years ago, Petra stood at a crossroads of the ancient Near East. Camel caravans passed through, loaded with spices, textiles and incense from distant regions--and through such commerce, the city flourished. Its people, the Nabataeans, harnessed precious water, enabling the population to soar to perhaps 20,000.

The Nabataeans also erected monumental tombs, memorializing their kings and leaders. But over time political control changed, and so did trade routes. Eventually the city fell silent, forgotten by the outside world.

Today archaeologists are discovering clues to Petra's past. The spectacular objects displayed here, many unearthed by recent excavations, shed new light on this extraordinary desert city.