Archaeologists unearthed 'unique' ancient stone 'eye idols' in ancient city of Petra

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Archaeologists unearthed 'unique' ancient stone 'eye idols' in ancient city of Petra

Petra: Archaeologists stunned by worship of female godPetra was once the beating heart of the Middle East, a hub of politics, commerce and culture,

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Petra: Archaeologists stunned by worship of female god

Petra was once the beating heart of the Middle East, a hub of politics, commerce and culture, originally established as a trading post by the native Nabateans. Its population and significance soon blew up, attracting people from across the region to set-up shop. As a result, the Nabateans soon accumulated great wealth and riches.

Petra is located in parts of countries that are today known as Jordan and Israel.

When the city was flooded with money, neighbouring states grew jealous with envy and moved to invade it.

The Greeks tried and failed, but when the Romans came in 106 AD, they successfully overran the city walls and laid claim to the bustling metropolis.

They would rule Petra for 250 years before an earthquake tore through the city and devastated almost everything in its wake.

Archaeology news: Researchers were stunned by the 'unique' eye idols

Archaeology news: Researchers were stunned by the ‘unique’ eye idols (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)

Ancient history: The city's architecture was long impressed visitors from around the world

Ancient history: The city’s architecture was long impressed visitors from around the world (Image: GETTY)

From this point onwards, Petra fell into decline.

It never quite returned to its ancient splendours, becoming a dusty, forgotten and barren land, with shepherds using the mysterious structures carved into the walls for shetler.

After the West first heard of its existence through Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in the early 19th century, archaeologists have made the journey to see for themselves how advanced a civilisation Petra was once home to.

Among the discoveries that have been found include stone idols, snapshots of deities before mainstream religion emerged, as explored during the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Sacred Sites: Petra’.

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Petra temple: Various temples found around Petra suggest that female deities were once prevalent

Petra temple: Various temples found around Petra suggest that female deities were once prevalent (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)

The stones and the idols told researchers that the Nabateans worshipped three female deities: Allat (Goddess), Al-‘Uzza (the Powerful One) and Manat (the Goddess of Fate), and venerated them at their great shrines and temples.

Dr Glen Corbett, from the American Centre for Oriental Research in Jordan, said: “The Nabateans themselves who lived in Petra seem to have worshipped in particular the goddess Al-‘Uzza, who is simply termed ‘the Mightiest’.”

In the centre of Petra stands the Temple of the Winged Lions, named after the carved winged lions that once adorned its columns.

The narrator explained that it was here archaeologists came across one of the idols.

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Al-'Uzza: The idol believed to be Al-'Uzza or the Powerful One

Al-‘Uzza: The idol believed to be Al-‘Uzza or the Powerful One (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)

Idols: One of the carved stone idols found inside the temple

Idols: One of the carved stone idols found inside the temple (Image: Youtube/Smithsonian Channel)

They said: “A unique eye idol was discovered here, ornately carved, it is a striking image of a goddess.”

Because it was found amid the rubble of the temple, researchers believe that it was dedicated to the goddess of Al-‘Uzza.

Everything about the temple suggests that it was a place of mysterious ritual with a cult surrounding Al-‘Uzza.

The rituals would have involved burning incense and chanting.

Archaeological discoveries: Some of the most significant finds on record

Archaeological discoveries: Some of the most significant finds on record (Image: Express Newspapers)

Inside, the sacred podium was specially designed so that the image of the goddess could be kept hidden from sight until the “moment of climax”.

Dr Corbett said: “In a very dramatic way, pulling the curtains away, suddenly, you come face-to-face with the visual image of the goddess Al-‘Uzza, sitting atop the cultic podium.”

Priestesses would have played an important part in the rituals, and the narrator said: “Al-‘Uzza’s great status suggests that Nabatean women, too, were important in this society.

Middle East: The site continues to offer archaeologists glimpses into the past

Middle East: The site continues to offer archaeologists glimpses into the past (Image: GETTY)

“Certainly, they had far greater rights and freedoms than the women of Europe or the Roman world.”

Because the Nabateans did not leave many records behind, it is difficult to gauge how their society was set up.

But, the records that survive appear to show that women had extremely powerful positions.

The narrator went as far as to claim that the evidence suggests that, “for a time, women were in control here.”



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