Satellites and drones helped reveal huge ceremonial platform near the ancient city’s center (Kristin Romey, National Geographic).
The newly revealed structure consists of a 184-by-161-foot (about 56-by-49-meter) platform that encloses a slightly smaller platform originally paved with flagstones. The east side of the interior platform had been lined with a row of columns that once crowned a monumental staircase.Hard to believe the structure was missed until now, but it took the satellite observation of Professor Sarah Parcak and her colleague to bring it to our notice:
A small 28-by-28-foot (8.5-by-8.5-meter) building was centered north-south atop the interior platform and opened to the east, facing the staircase.
This enormous open platform, topped with a relatively small building and approached by a monumental facade, has no known parallels to any other structure in Petra. It most likely had a public, ceremonial function, which may make it the second largest elevated, dedicated display area yet known in Petra after the Monastery.
This new discovery may be a unique public monument from the city's early years.
While the monument has not been excavated, the presence of surface pottery dating from the mid-second century B.C. suggests that construction of the structure began during the Nabataeans' initial public building program.
Archaeologists Sarah Parcak, a National Geographic fellow, and Christopher Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, used high-resolution satellite imagery followed by aerial drone photography and ground surveys to locate and document the structure.More on Professor Parcak's work is here and here. Cross-file under Technology Watch. And background on the Nabateans and Petra is here and here with many links.