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Philip C. Hammond

[Semit. Reqem; Heb. Sela‛; Arab. Ḥiṣn Sal‛]

Site in the southern desert of Jordan, 262 km south of Amman and 133 km north of the Gulf of Aqaba, near the modern village of Wadi Musa. It is famous for its rock-cut monuments. The site, which may be that of the biblical Rock of Edom, was strategically located adjacent to the ‘King’s Highway’, the major north–south communication line between Aqaba and Amman, and protected on both east and west by parallel massifs of sandstone; it was supplied with perennial springs. As the capital of the ancient kingdom of Nabataea from c. 312 bc to ad 106, it was cited by Strabo, Pliny and other Classical writers under its Greek name Petra (Gk.: ‘rock’). In ad 106 it was incorporated into the Roman province of Arabia by the emperor Trajan (reg ad 98–117). It was destroyed by earthquake in ad 363; during the Byzantine period it was occupied by anchorites. In the 11th–12th centuries the Crusaders knew it as the Valley of Moses, following established Bedouin folklore; with the fall of Jerusalem in ...