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Before the Nabataeans, Petra

Although most people associate Petra with the Nabataeans, in fact man lived in and around the area long before their arrival. Just to the north of Petra, near the site of "Little Petra", on the Siq Al-Barid, are found the remains of the farming village of Beidha, which was inhabited from 7000 to 6500 BC. This was the period when man was making the transition from a nomadic, hunting and gathering lifestyle to a sedentary one, in which he cultivated cereals and domesticated animals.

The facade of a Tomb at Beidha, Siq Al-BaridBeidha
Beidha was an obvious site to choose; it occupied naturally defended ground and was plentifully supplied with water from the Beidha valley. Today one can still see the remains of walls of the early houses of these newly settled farmers, with their internal hearths and plastered floors. The site, which clearly demonstrates the evolution of different housing patterns, is regarded by archaeologists as being as important as the ancient remains of Jericho.

The Edomites
Making a huge leap through time we arrive at the era of the Edomites, the people who occupied Petra area in the Iron Age (1200-539 BC) immediately before the arrival of the Nabataeans. Edom was the most southerly of the three Kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom, and appears also to have been the most prosperous.

The little we know of the Edomites comes from Biblical accounts and from the remains of their settlements, which would seem to have been situated in the hills surrounding Petra rather than on the actual site chosen by the Nabataeans for their magnificent city.

Excavations have revealed Edomite settlements in nearby Tawilan and on the summit of the mountain of Umm Biyara. Most of the Old Testament accounts of the Edomites stress the constant state of hostility between them and the Israelites. The Edomites appear to have been poor masons when it came to working with rock but to have excelled in pottery making, an art which they may have passed on to the Nabataeans.

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