Big and Bold

Part of the Petra exhibition.

City of Petra in Jordan

When it came to the size and scale of Petra's rock-cut monuments, the Nabataeans clearly thought bigger was better. The bold cornices and stately columns created an atmosphere of wealth and power, perhaps designed to awe and intimidate foreign travelers entering this international marketplace.

Petra exhibition
© AMNH Photo Studio

But before getting out the hammers and chisels, master builders must have drawn detailed blueprints for these grand monuments. They sculpted designs at heights reaching 100 feet (30 meters) or more. It is unclear whether the Nabataeans built on this large scale to impress visitors, honor kings, or revere the gods. Perhaps they carved in a style befitting the gigantic rock faces that surrounded the city.