Subject : Al Khazneh
Maria Karatzini
Evangelia Georgiadou
Panagiota Theodoridou
Al-Khazneh is one of the most
elaborate buildings in the
ancient Jordanian city of Petra.
As with most of the other
buildings in this ancient town,
including the Monastery (Arabic:
Ad Deir), this structure was also
carved out of a sandstone rock
It has classical Greekinfluenced architecture, and it is
a popular tourist attraction.
It is unknown as to why or exactly
when Al Khazneh was originally
built, probably between 100 BC
and AD 200. Its Arabic name
Treasury derives from one legend
that bandits or pirates hid their
loot in a stone urn high on the
second level.
Significant damage from bullets can
be seen on the urn.
Local lore attributes this to
Bedouins, who are said to have
shot at the urn in hopes of breaking
it open and spilling out the
"treasure" within (the decorative
urn, however, is solid sandstone).
Another is that it functioned as a
treasury of the Egyptian Pharaoh of
the time of Moses (Khaznet
Far'oun). Another is that it
functioned as a treasury of the
Egyptian Pharaoh of the time of
Moses (Khaznet Far'oun).
Many of the building's architectural
details have eroded away
during the two thousand years
since it was carved and sculpted
from the cliff. The sculptures are
thought to be those of various
mythological figures associated
with the afterlife. On top are figures
of four eagles that would carry
away the souls. The figures on the
upper level are dancing Amazons
with double-axes.
The entrance is flanked by statues
of the twins Castor and Pollux who
lived partly on Olympus and partly
in the underworld. There are burial
chambers on either side of a ramp
(enlarge image (right) to see) which
were added in 1938.
What to See
The Treasury's façade has two
levels, decorated with columns,
classical rooflines and badly
weathered sculptures. Perched
atop the façade is an eagle, a
Nabataean (and Greek) male
deity symbol.
The central figure on the upper
level tholos may be the fertility
goddess of Petra, El-Uzza
(associated to the Egyptian
goddess Isis). The vertical
footholds on either side may have
been made to aid the sculptors. The
portal on the bottom level is
reached by small flight of steps,
and is flanked by mounted figures
believed to be Castor and Pollux,
sons of Zeus. Inside, a colossal
doorway dominates the outer court
and leads to an inner chamber of
12 square meters. At the back of
the chamber is a sanctuary with an
ablution basin (for ritual washing),
suggesting that the Treasury was a
temple or some other kind of holy
place. The chamber can no longer
be entered, but it is possible to
look in from the doorway.
What has become of it?
Al Khazneh has been inhabited
by many groups through the
centuries and was in fact,
uninhabited for many generations
until a Swiss adventurer-scholar
Johann Ludwig Burckhardt2
‘rediscovered’ Petra on August
22, 1812.
The site is one of the most beautiful
of Petra, and is of course included
in Petra’s designation as a “World
Heritage Site,” so declared in 1985.
The site hosts thousands of tourists
from around the world. It has been
featured in movies such as Indiana
Jones and the Last Crusade as well
as the move Spyhunter.