Siq al-Barid – ‘Little Petra’

Siq al-Barid, also called ‘Little Petra’ is a Nabataean site in the Ma’an Governorate of Jordan that features rock cut tombs, stone-built architecture, and a complex system of hydrological engineering.

Siq al-Barid was founded by the Nabataeans (also called Nabateans), a nomadic Bedouin tribe from the Arabian Desert who moved their herds across the desert in search of pastures and water.

The Nabataeans emerged as a distinct civilisation and political entity between the 4th and 2nd century BC, centred on the city of Petra which developed into a major trading hub reaching as far as China, Egypt, Greece, and India.

The kingdom became a client state of the Roman Republic in the first century BC and was annexed into the province of Arabia Petraea by the Roman Empire in AD 106.

- Advertisement -
Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

Archaeologists propose that Siq al-Barid was founded in the 1st century BC, serving as a suburb of the nearby Petra city complex 6km to the south.

Located in a 450-metre wadi, Siq al-Barid was accessed via a narrow rock cut passageway on the eastern entrance, whilst a staircase on the western side led to a secluded mountain pass.

Within the wadi is a series of tombs, temples, cisterns, and banqueting halls (tricliniums) cut into the natural sandstone walls, suggesting that the site served as a resort for entertaining merchants and traders on their stopover in Petra.

Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

Siq al-Barid has some of the only surviving Nabataean paintings, such as the Painted rock-cut Biclinium which depicts faux architectural elements reminiscent of some Pompeian wall paintings, and scenes of intertwining vines, flowers, figures, birds, and insects.

Several erotes (winged gods associated with love and the cultivation of wine) are also depicted that participate in viticulture management, using ladders and pruning hooks, carrying baskets of gathered grapes that lends weight to the attribution of the space as a centre of Dionysiac worship.

With the decline of the Nabataeans, Petra and Siq al-Barid were largely abandoned around the 8th century AD.

Header Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Excavation of medieval shipbuilders reveals a Roman head of Mercury

Excavations of a medieval shipbuilders has led to the discovery of a Roman settlement and a Roman head of Mercury.

Researchers find that Żagań-Lutnia5 is an Iron Age stronghold

Archaeologists have conducted a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey of Żagań-Lutnia5, revealing that the monument is an Iron Age stronghold.

Rare copper dagger found in Polish forest

A rare copper dagger from over 4,000-years-ago has been discovered in the forests near Korzenica, southeastern Poland.

Neanderthals created stone tools held together by a multi-component adhesive

A new study published in the journal Science Advances has found evidence of Neanderthals creating stone tools that are held together using a multi-component adhesive.

Roman funerary altar found partially buried in Torre river

Archaeologists have recovered a Roman funerary altar which was found partially buried in the Torree river in the municipality of San Vito al Torre, Italy.

Post-medieval township discovered in Scottish forest

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a pre-medieval township in the Glen Brittle Forest on the Isle of Skye.

Geophysical study finds evidence of “labyrinth” buried beneath Mitla

A geophysical study has found underground structures and tunnels beneath Mitla – The Zapotec “Place of the Dead”

Discovery of a Romanesque religious structure rewrites history of Frauenchiemsee

Archaeologists from the Bavarian State Office for Monument Preservation have announced the discovery of a Romanesque religious structure on the island of Frauenchiemsee, the second largest of the three islands in Chiemsee, Germany.