This Incredible Cave Temple Was Also an Astronomical Timepiece

Illustration for article titled This Incredible Cave Temple Was Also an Astronomical Timepiece

This temple in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan isn't just an architectural marvel. It's also an astronomical time keeper, designed to welcome the sunlight only on certain days of the year.


Photo by Poco a poco

The city of Petra is known throughout the world as a marvel — its buildings are carved directly into towering cliffs, making it look like one of the breathtaking elf cities in Lord of the Rings. And now we know that the builders of this temple, a group known as the Nabateans, knew enough about astronomy to line up their monastery doors perfectly to allow sunlight in on the winter solstice.

Writes Elizabeth Howell on

When the Earth reaches its farthest point from the sun, light from the sun shines into the monastery — which is located in Petra, Jordan — and falls upon the podium of a deity. At the same time, the light casts the shadow of the head of a lion (a sacred animal in Nabatean culture) upon a mountain opposite to the religious center ...

"The Nabataean monuments are marvelous laboratories where landscape features and the events of the sun, moon and other stars interact," Juan Antonio Belmonte, a researcher at the Canaries Astrophysical Institute and coordinator of the study, said in a statement.

Read the full scientific study in Nexus Network Journal



The site has suffered over the years (specially during the filming of numerous films). Let's hope it stands the pass of the millenia and that it doesn't fall prey to religious fundamentalism like the The Giant Buddhas of Barryan.