Petra: City of Riches (2019) Movie Script

Narrator: In the jordanian
desert, an incredible ancient
treasure still stands:
The monumental city
of petra.
Built over 2,000 years
ago by the ancient
nabatean civilization,
Petra's construction is
colossal, with monuments,
Tombs, and temples carved
into the sides of cliffs.
David: The nature of
petra as a rock-carved
city is really unique.
There are no other places
with these many tombs, and
this kind of architecture.
Narrator: To sustain this
ancient desert city,
Its engineers built a water
supply system with channels
And pipelines that transformes
Filled with lush gardens, a
pool, and a thermal spa.
Tom: You just didn't
have water that was
available during seasons,
You had water
available all year.
Narrator: Even today, the
achievements of petra's
engineers are astounding.
They made a region of harsh,
arid mountains into a
prosperous city of over
20,000 people and an
ancient trading capital.
Now experts take us behind
the scenes to finally see how
this ancient culture carved
Cliffside monuments that
still stand today.
Discover how this forbidding
landscape became the amazing
city of petra.
The ancient city of
petra stands a 100-mile
journey south
From jordan's capital, amman.
Halfway between the red sea
and the dead sea, petra is
strategically located
In a valley at the end
of a narrow canyon.
It's an astounding sight,
with monuments carved into
the rock face on all sides.
Built over 2,000 years ago,
The ancient people who
constructed the city were
known as the nabateans.
But why did these nomadic
merchants build their city
in a remote desert canyon?
Tom: Petra was the
perfect crossroads; it
was a nexus of commerce.
So, you have
north-south trade that
involved frankincense
And myrrh and then turquoise
and peridot and gemstones
coming from the south,
Then you have the
east-west trade coming
Through which is now kuwait
that would've brought silk
And chinese goods
in from the east.
So, there's no coincidence
that petra was the perfect
location to build a city,
And a city that would boom
within hundreds of years to
thousands of inhabitants.
Narrator: In addition to
its location at the nexus
of valuable trade routes,
Petra also had other
Its steep hillsides
provided a natural
defense against invaders.
The city's builders constructed
control towers at its highest
points to secure the area.
The entry point for the
city passed through a narrow
gorge formed by erosion,
Called the siq.
Petra stood at the junction
of multiple dry stream
valleys, called wadis,
Which the nabateans used
to direct rain flow and
spring water to the city.
Tom: You're in a desert, water
is scarce, and what you find
Is a large basin where
water drains from a
couple of directions.
So the original inhabitants
of petra understood that
where water converges
Is probably the most
important thing to look
for a desert city.
It's not a coincidence, it's
not an arbitrary location,
It's the perfect
location where you have
water and then trade,
Commerce, a flat valley
that would be ideal for
a city center.
Petra is the best
location within one
or 200 miles easily
If not 1000 miles
to build a city.
Narrator: The nabateans
built their hidden
city in just 200 years.
The entry point through
the siq led to a vast plain
that became the city center,
Home to 20 to 30,000 people
in the first century ad.
Nearly 3,000 monuments
and buildings decorated
The city and its surrounding
The 2.3 square mile
city became the capital
of the nabatean kingdom.
These master architects
built the lavish khazneh,
Or treasury, near the
entrance to the city.
The structure is
decorated with details
that show the influence
Of greek and egyptian
High columns are topped with
ornate corinthian capitals,
And the entrance is
flanked by statues
Of the greek
mythological figures
castor and pollux.
The second level
features a tholos, a
circular greek structure,
Surrounded by sculptures of
egyptian and greek deities
Worn down by 2,000
years of erosion.
At the top a massive
urn stands 11 feet high.
Inside lies a vast hall
opening onto three
large rooms.
But unlike the exterior,
the inside of the
structure is plain,
With the walls left
completely bare.
David: The function
of the khazneh remains
a puzzling question.
And it has been speculated
that it was a tomb
For one of the
nabatean kings,
Possibly, it was a tomb
for the great nabatean king
Aretas the 4th.
But this is only
guesswork, we really don't
know who was buried there,
And there are no inscriptions
at any of the tombs to give
us some idea
Of who this tomb represents.
Narrator: The khazneh
was carved out of a
sandstone cliff
That stands 250 feet high.
For workers to carve out
this massive structure,
Petra's architects had
to rethink their usual
building methods.
A typical bottom-to-top
plan would be impossible
when carving from a cliff.
Narrator: So, they carved the
khazneh from top to bottom.
But the structure's sides
soar nearly 130 feet high.
How did the workers get
to the top to even
start carving?
Scaffolding makes sense, but
in the desert wood was scarce.
Tom: If we look at the
pollen record in petra
We notice that trees were
not much more abundant
than they are today.
And the trees that did exist
in the area are similar to
trees we see today
Juniper and oak.
The climate hasn't
changed enough to change
the variety of trees.
So trees did grow then but
they grew sparsely, they
were not common at all.
So the use of scaffolding
would've been
A very, very rare luxury
for the nabateans to have.
Narrator: Without wood to
build scaffolding, petra's
architects got creative,
And their methods are still
visible on the mountain today.
Narrator: After climbing the
first part of the staircase,
visitors reach a huge cave:
A shelter carved out
by workers at the
start of construction.
Narrator: Even the
preparation for the
monument was impressive,
But it was all to set
the stage for the
construction to come.
Experts say the
ancient architects
used certain methods
To carve the khazneh
straight out of the rock.
The first step was to carve
a ledge in the cliffside.
Then, the workers could
use the ledge to access
the face of the rock
And began carving the
gigantic urn at the top.
Next, they dug two vertical
trenches on either side.
Then the ledge was carved
further and another
section of the khazneh
Began to take shape.
A series of indentations
likely served as ladders,
So workers could reach
the different levels
of the structure.
They continued this
process until they finally
reached the bottom.
There was no room
for mistakes.
Once they completed a
level, they couldn't
reach it again later.
The smallest mistake would
stay carved into the rock
for thousands of years.
The remnants of the vertical
trenches and enclaves
are still visible today,
Reminders of this massive
undertaking by petra's
ancient architects.
Experts believe the
builders finished the job
in less than four years.
A mile from here, another
one of the city's monuments
was also carved
Entirely from the rock.
It's called ad deir.
It's not an easy
place to reach
Through a narrow path and
up over 800 stone steps.
The colossal structure
towers over the city below.
The exterior of ad deir
is less ornate
And more abstract than
the khazneh's figurative
But both structures
feature imposing columns
supporting two levels
Of pediments and a tholos.
Ad deir also features
a 30-foot-high urn at
the top of its tholos.
David: During the
christian period, it was
developed into a monastery,
But in the earlier period,
its purpose seems to have
been originally a tomb.
Who was buried there,
and when, is a matter
speculation again,
But it is one of the most
magnificent tombs at petra,
Along with the khazneh.
Narrator: At first, it
seems ad deir was built the
same way as the khazneh,
Since both monuments
were carved entirely
from the rock.
But the cliffs are less
steep than the khazneh.
The sides of the rock
around ad deir slope more
gently toward the ground,
So workers could use
different methods to
carve this structure.
Getting started was
also relatively easier:
Workers could climb
the slope to the top,
Making the carving of the
urn a much simpler task.
Building the rest of the
structure took two stages.
The first was to create a
giant set of steps across
the face of the rock,
Eliminating the excess
rock so the vertical
facade could take shape.
Then, workers carved ad
deir step by step from
top to bottom.
The columns and their
capitals are simple
and abstract,
And the pediments are
sparely decorated.
But the structure's
simplicity belies a
superior level of mastery.
Narrator: Ad deir's smooth
columns and refined lines
Are the result of
incredible skill.
Even more impressive, they
were all carved out of
the mountain in one piece.
When a structure is
made of stone blocks
assembled together,
Carvers can choose them
individually before
beginning their work
Not possible here.
The sculptors worked up
against the rocky wall,
digging inch by inch.
Every step had to be perfect.
Narrator: The lost city of
petra is home to over 2,700
Monuments and structures
carved from the rock.
Millions of years of erosion
shaped the landscape before it
was sculpted by human tools,
Revealing the many
layers of sandstone in
all their colors.
David: The nature of
petra as a rock-carved
city is really unique.
There are not other places
with these many tombs,
And this kind of
The number of these
rock-carved areas is
Anywhere in the
mediterranean world.
Petra is unique,
exceptional in this regard.
Narrator: In addition to
the rock-carved monuments,
The city also housed many
more stone structures
Built using traditional
construction methods.
The sandstone used to build
the freestanding structures
Came from nearby
construction sites.
When carving their cliffside
monuments, workers shaped
and reused the large amounts
Of stone removed from
the mountains.
Many of the more
traditional buildings
have been destroyed
Or buried in the sand
after 2,000 years.
The number of budings
petra once contained
remains unknown,
But experts say they
were more than just the
leftover stone extracted
From cliffside constructions.
The builders also drew from
sources outside petra.
Archaeological excavations
have found 14 stone quarries
around the city,
Where workers extracted tens
of thousands of cubic feet
of multicolored sandstone.
Southeast of the city
at the summit of jebel
Lies one of the biggest
stone quarries.
The extraction of
huge stone blocks,
Weighing hundreds of pounds
would have taken years.
The workers' only tools
were a pick, a mallet
and an iron wedge.
Two stone obelisks
Each over 20 feet high
are all that remain
To show the rock's
original height.
Hani m.K: These columns left
behind are sign and witness
About the volume of the
rock that were extracted
From this particular quarry
which counts for at least
Tens of thousands of
cubic meters.
Here, workers dug
out the floor to extract
almost 100 feet of rock.
But at the bottom, they
discovered sandstone
of much higher quality.
So they dug further,
directly into the
bottom of the cliff,
Carving out an opening
over 25 feet long.
Hani m.K: This kind of sand
is quite hard, so it is more
resistant than the others.
It is characterized by its
yellowish brown color.
So huge amounts of rocks were
excavated from this quarry.
It is estimated that the
quantities of the rock
Which is extracted from
this quarry alone more
than 31.000 meter cube.
Narrator: Even after
removing the blocks of
sandstone from the mountain,
The workers still had to
move them to the city.
How they did that
remains a mystery.
Narrator: That hasn't
stopped archaeologists
From offering theories
based on local topography.
Tom: The quarries are all
found above the valley.
They are not at the lower
portion of the valley.
So the quarries where the
rock was removed to use for
construction in petra
Are all found either at
the same level or above.
So simple roller tools
Could've been used to
haul the rock down.
Narrator: The workers
probably used simple wooden
rollers to move the stone.
Logs would have been
placed on top of two larger
parallel tree trunks.
The stone blocks could
then be rolled down
the slope to the city.
One of the most impressive
monuments built using
sandstone blocks
Mined from the quarries
is the great temple.
The enormous building
stretches to 76,000
square feet.
Despite its name, it
was probably not used
as a temple,
But as a central
administrative building,
Or as the public section
of the royal palace.
The massive entrance porch
leads to a series of rooms
And hallways surrounded
by columns.
Was this a courtroom?
Or an assembly area?
Its intended purpose
has been lost to time.
Now, only ruins remain of
this once imposing building.
But its massive stone
blocks raise another
archaeological mystery:
How did the builders raise
these stones 100 feet into
the air without scaffolding?
Petra's architects
left no written record.
But the methods used by the
romans and other civilizations
provide a few theories.
Narrator: Another
type of lifting device
is called a derrick.
Made up of a single
large wooden beam,
It is placed in a hole in
the ground to anchor it.
On the other end, pulleys
are connected to two cords
Attached to the ground
and a third cord tied
around the rock.
Using a pendulum-like
movement, the ro can
be lifted
And positioned anywhere
in the construction site.
Narrator: Using these
ancient tools,
The builders probably
spent years constructing
the great temple.
Some estimate that all of
petra must have taken at
least 200 years to build.
Narrator: On top of
everything else,
Ancient nabatean architects
faced one more natural
obstacle around petra.
A 700-mile fault line
marks where two
tectonic plates meet:
The arabian plate and
the sinai subplate.
The seismic risk is very
high along this fault line.
Several earthquakes
have struck petra
through the years,
Leading to the destruction
of structures not built
Into the surrounding
Except for one: Qasr al-bint.
In bedouin arabic, the
name means "the palace of
the pharaoh's daughter",
But it was also thought
to be the city's largest
place of worship.
Narrator: This temple was
no ordinary construction
It was built to withstand
nature itself.
The temple of qasr al-bint
is a perfect square,
so in an earthquake,
Pressure hits evenly
across all four sides
of the monument,
Reducing the overall impact.
To further protect
their place of worship, the
nabatean builders also used
Another strategy, traces
of which are still visible
on the temple walls.
These horizontal grooves
are actually the remains
of ancient wooden beams.
When building the temple's
load-bearing walls,
The architects added cedar
beams at various levels.
Connecting to each other, the
beams served as reinforcement
throughout the structure.
Since wood is more
flexible than stone,
The beams could help
absorb part of the
pressure of an earthquake.
Narrator: These unusual
techniques allowed qasr
al-bint to remain standing
For 2,000 years in the
heart of the ancient city.
Earthquakes weren't
the only challenge
petra's builders faced.
To survive, the desert city
also needed to carefully
manage its water supply.
The average rainfall is
about 6 inches a year here.
When the rain finally falls
between December and March,
It can lead to
devastating flash floods.
The city's architects had
to capture any rainfall
They could so they could
supply the population with
water throughout the year,
While also protecting
themselves from flash
The walls of the siq,
the narrow gorge marking
the entrance to petra,
Hold clues to how the
ancient builders controlled
the flow of water.
Qais: This carving channel
came all the way from the
entrance of the siq
Till the treasury facade,
which is about 1 200 meter.
Narrator: The siq is
marked by channels in
the cliffsides,
And more sophisticated
systems: Clay pipes actually
built into the cliffs,
Assembled in sections
connected by
waterproof coating.
Their diameter allowed
for natural pressure
within the pipes.
This meant the water could
naturally flow toward the
city center unobstructed,
And even go up gentle slopes.
Further north of the
city, another site
reveals the complexity
Of this ancient city's
These were once petra's
water purification
Qais: If you look to the
edge of the cliff here, you
can see a curving channel,
Which is mostly destroyed.
The idea of this channel
is to collect water from
the top of the cliff,
And then firstly feed that big
basin here, which we can call
it as the collection basin
And the main use for this
basin is to let silt settle
down for a while
And in this case they can
be sure the water is
getting somehow filtered,
And out of dirt.
And after that when they are
sure that some of the water is
getting filtered and is good,
Through a small valve
in this wall between
the two basins,
The water go to this
next small basin,
And is kept for the next
step, which is going again
through this dam here
And another small valve
in the dam, and then
through more cisterns,
Water channels and pipes to
feed the rest of many water
cisterns in this area.
Narrator: Passing through
multiple basins, the water
would settle little by little,
Losing its impurities.
The final reservoir held
clean drinking water,
Which would then be piped
into the city's water system.
Years of archaeological
excavations have found
that petra's water system
Was tremendously complex.
The city was surrounded
by dams and a network
of reservoirs
For storage and
purification, along with
long diversion canals,
All helping to avoid
flooding while also storing
The city's precious
rainwater supply.
The city center contained
miles of canals.
Water was routed along the
cliffsides, passed through
the streets in aqueducts,
Flowed over walls and
fed into the city's many
cisterns and reservoirs.
Qais: If we connect all the
pipes together, we can reach
Something like 170 kilometers
of pipes in one line.
So, this gives us an idea of
How much work done to protect
the site, and the region.
Tom: Once they learn how
to engineer that water for
storage and built cisterns
And storage facilities
and reservoirs,
Suddenly you just
didn't have water
That was available
during seasons,
You had water
available all year.
Next to the great temple
in the city center,
The nabateans even
built a large,
Luxurious bathing
complex using hundreds
of gallons of water.
Narrator: The complex was
fronted by a lush garden
with numerous trees,
Leading to a basin as
large as an olympic-size
swimming pool.
In the middle stood a
richly decorated pavilion.
Thousands of years later,
the site lies in ruins.
When archaeologists first
began excavating here
decades ago,
They never expected to
find something so lavish.
Narrator: But this wasn't the
only luxurious use of water in
this 2,000-year-old desert cit.
Further away, at the top
of jebel khubthah,
Was an even more
sophisticated spot:
A gigantic thermal spa.
Its entrance was through
a wide courtyard,
Which opened onto a banquet
room on one side and a
frigidarium on the other.
The frigidarium held a pool
of cold water, the first
stop for spa visitors.
The next room was
the tepidarium, a
warm-water pool.
It helped visitors aust
to the following hot rooms,
Equipped with group
basins large enough for
two or three people.
The discovery of this
thermal spa was a surprise
to archaeologists.
It was unusual to find such
a complex site on the plains
overhanging the city center.
Narrator: In the section
containing the hot baths,
Excavations uncovered
a complex heating
system inspired
By the romans called a
A hearth in a ventilated
service room served
as the main heat source.
Small openings connected it to
the floors of the spa rooms,
Funneling hot air and smoke
underneath the hot bath
In an underground
chamber constructed
from stacked bricks,
Allowing heat to
freely circulate.
The walls also held a
network of clay water pipes,
Which were connected
to outlets on the roof
of the building.
Other excavations revealed
the ruins of nearby
Part of a complex that
covered the entire plateau.
Narrator: The baths of jebel
khubthah drew inspiration
From greco-roman thermal
But this small sanctuary
indicates that thermal
practice here
May not have been simply
for leisure,
But was likely connected
to ritual.
In this complex towering
over the city,
The wealthiest of petra's
inhabitants relaxed in
Luxurious style, while
taking in the view of
their capital.
The nabateans overcame
nature's obstacles,
From the unforgiving desert
and sheer cliffsides to
tectonic instability.
In only 200 years, in an
inhospitable landscape,
This ancient civilization
built a luxurious and
extraordinary city.
Narrator: In 106 ad,
the roman empire annexed
the nabatean kingdom.
Over time, the city's
structures were
modified, transformed,
Or even destroyed by
roman engineers.
The city was slowly
abandoned and its location
lost to history.
It would only be rediscovered
in the early 19th century by
a swiss explorer.
Ever since then, petra has
captivated its visitors.
Tom: It's easy for us to
think that people in our past
Were not as clever and
knowledgeable as we are now
But when we look at the
engineering expertise
of the nabateans then,
I really think we're looking
at a society, a community of
amazing engineering skills.
They knew how to use the
rock to their advantage for
storage, for decoration,
They knew how to use a
landscape covered with
a beautiful soil
That would've been ideal
for agriculture,
And they knew that water
was the key and the source
to their livelihood.
David: We don't have any
parallel for the nabateans
And their architecture
elsewhere, so it is
fairly unique.
Their engineering skill,
their artistic skill,
Their architectural skill,
All of these are
very impressive.
Narrator: Two thousand
years later, mysteries
still remain at petra.
Archaeologists, historians
and geologists continue
To study the city's
incredible structures.
Petra endures as an
unparalleled monument
To the architectural mastery
of its ancient builders.
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