The "Treasury" was built some time between 100 BC to 200 AD. It is 40m high and is adorned by a 3.5m high urn which people once believed to have hidden the wealth of the Nabateans - hence the name, the Treasury. (Over the years, people have taken shots at the urn in the hopes of breaking it open but it is solid rock.) However, its true use was probably as a temple or tomb. (BTW, the rooms inside are unadorned and usually do not bare any inscriptions.)
The above photo was taken in 1997 so here's a 2011 update:
An archaeologist realised (from examining the gradient of the road in the Siq) that the ground level would have been significantly lower 2000 years ago. In 2003, they dug around the front of the Khazneh and discovered another level 6 metres below the "entrance" of the Khazneh.
They discovered 4 burial chambers with the bones of 11 individuals and the artifacts dated to the first century AD. So they believe that the Khazneh was built during the reign of the Nabtean king Aretas IV (Petra's the most successful ruler -- over 80% of Nabatean coins found bear his image).
Petra's most famous and known site is the Al Khazneh, it is about two thousand years old and it was carved into the canyon rock. What people might not know that it is just burial chamber and not a temple or such, probably this one was a one of a rich and important person of that time.
Al Khazneh ("The Treasury") 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, this structure was carved out of a sandstone rock face. It has classical Greek-influenced architecture, and it is a popular tourist attraction.
Many of the building's architectural details have eroded away during the 2000 years since it was carved and sculpted from the cliff. Others have been defaced, likely by Muslim vandals after the Islamic Renaissance. The sculptures are those of various mythological figures associated with the afterlife.
There are burial chambers on either side of a ramp which were excavated in 2003.
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.
Once you have adjusted to it's awe and beauty, have a look 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.
There is a funerary urn at the top of the Treasury which according to local legend conceals pharaoh’s treasures.
It is unknown as why Al Khazneh was originally built, probably between 100 BC and 200 AD. Its Arabic name Treasury derives from one legend that bandits or pirates hid their loot in a stone urn high on the second level.
There are burial chambers on either side of a ramp which were excavated in 2003.
As you come to the end of the Siq, the first and greatest monument of Petra slowly comes into view. The Siq opens up onto Petra’s most magnificent façade - the Treasury or Al Khazneh. It stands at almost 40 meters high and is intricately decorated with friezes, statues and other features carved from the rock.
Although the original function is still a mystery, the Khazneh is believed by many archaeologists to be the mausoleum of King Aretas IV (9BC- 40AD).
Another is that it functioned as a treasury of the Egyptian Pharaoh of the time of Moses (Khaznet Far'oun).
You can watch my 3 min 53 sec HD Video Jordan Petra part 4 Treasury out of my Youtube channel.
Al-Khazneh, better known as "The Treasury."
As you begin to emerge from the Siq, and you have walked almost 3 kilometers, you are met with one of the most impressive sites in all of Jordan. I stood there in the shade of the cliffs and simply gazed at this unique and ancient wonder of the world!
The surroundings and everyone in view was simply dwarfed by this 30 meter wide by 43 meter high carving. It is impressive in status and I could not help but try and think of how impressive the Nabataen King was that inspired his people to carve such a grand and breathtaking monument.
The façade is impressive in itself but the top of the structure is littered with bullet holes. A group of Bedouins were drinking and decided to use the large urn (Tholos) at the top as target practice. Some suggest that they thought the urn was full of gold.
The Khazneh is this famous, monumental building hewn out of red sandstone, which welcomes you to Petra as the Siq canyon suddenly widens, and makes your jaw drop with amazement: There it is, the Khazneh, the symbol of Petra, symbol of the power, wealth and architectural knowldege of the ancient Nabateans.
The building is 39m high, and was built 2000 years ago. The method of construction was ingenious: from the top down, starting from an horizontal slit at the top, then carving the contours of the building downwards, taking out thousand of blocks of sandstone, which were then used elsewhere in Petra to construct "conventional" buildings.
It took careful, meticulous calculations to plan the Khazneh so that it didn't collapse from the weight of the huge sandstone masses. This proves that the Nabbteans were not just a nomadic people who led camel caravans through the desert, but developed the know-how and artistic abilities to enable the construction of the Khazneh.
The facade was decorated with statues and reliefs of an eclectic nature: From Isis to Aphrodite and Medusa, Castor and Pollux; Ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian deities, with death as the central unifying theme. The bodily features of these sculptures were destroyed many hundreds of years later, after Islam had replaced the ancient cultures and religions in this part of the desert. The crude square holes on both sides of the Khazneh, all the way from the bottom to the top, were probably stone "ladders" belonging to this later period of "alterations".
The purpose and role of this monumental structure remained elusive for many years. Although it was nicknamed "Treasury" there is no evidence for such a use. Impressive as the Khazneh is, it does not make sense that its role was just to impress everyone who entered Petra. The decorative motifs are all about death, but no tombs were found in the hall and two chambers of the interior. It was a brilliant Jordanian archeologist who figured out the secret of the Khazneh: He realized that according to the slope of the Siq canyon, its original riverbed must lie about 10m deeper than the ground plan of the Khazneh, so that there must be an underground level below the "plaza" in front of the Khazneh, all the way down to the Siq bedrock. His excavations revealed the subterranean chambers, which contained 11 tombs, probably those of the Nabatean king and his family.
In short: an amazing building with an amazing story!
After the amazing walk down The Siq, you are confronted with the amazing, overwhelming Al-Khazneh.
This is most probably the most impressive building/monument in Petra.
With the buzz of tourists, camels, donkeys etc, one almost get the feel of a town square. This is also the first restaurant/resting place you come across.
The facade of Al-Khazneh is in full sunlight for only an hour a day. The colours of the sandstone changes quite a lot, depending on the light. So, do visit more than once.
The Treasury is the most known image of Petra. When you are crossing the Siqh, you look forward to reaching this place. Even though you have seen this picture hundreds of times, the moment you arrive and begin to see the Treasury is really magic.
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