al-Khazneh Burial Crypt

By the Editors of the Madain Project

al-Khazneh Crypt is now an underground burial crypt located beneath the Treasury ('al-Khazneh') where human remains of 11 individuals were found in four burial chambers.

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One of the (possible) four or five entrances (illustration) to the underground burial crypts located directly beneath the Treasury (al-Khazneh). Discovered in 1996, and excavated in 2003 by Suleiman Farajat, the burial crypt was found to contain the skeletel remains of at least eleven individuals. The excavations by Farajat revealed that al-Khazneh did lay at the heart of a thriving religious complex. The fact that archaeologists have found bowls with incense and gifts to the gods suggests that it was a place of worship.

Discovery and Excavations

circa 100 CE

Three rock-cut tombs in the classic Nabataean style were discovered over six metres below the present ground level (illustration). These were largely intact and had hewn steps leading into them. Human bones and other material finds included typical Nabataean pottery corroborate the dating of the tomb facades to the 1st century BCE. Perhaps most interesting, though, was the discovery of an altar in front of the northern tomb which had remains of incense residues, possibly frankincense, still in situ.


circa 100 CE

The access stairs (inspect) to the underground crypt of al-Khazneh. At the base of the three tombs, traces of paving stones belonging to the original street were uncovered which presumably was the continuation of those exposed in the siq. Although the obvious objective would be to continue excavations and link the two areas, thereby opening the entire area in front of the ‘Khasneh’ to the ancient level, the Jordanian authorities decided to back-fill most the excavated areas, temporarily covering the three tombs, concealing them from public view.

circa 100 CE

Interior of one of the chambers excavated by Suleiman Farajat in 2003. Although the king Aretas himself is believed to have been buried elsewhere, these underground chambers may contain remains of his relatives.

circa 100 CE

Why the Nabataeans built the Treasury (al-Khazneh) has remained a mystery for centuries. Contrary to the previous discoveries excavations of 2003 revealed significant clues and details about the purpose of al-Khazneh.

circa 100 CE

A niche holder carved out of stone was used to hang offerings, like incense. Although the the Treasury (al-Khazneh) had previously been dated to circa 100 BCE - 100 CE the carbon based offerings (incense etc) allowed a more precise dating of the tomb to the first or the beginning of first century CE. Hence it was concluded that it was constructed during the reign of king Aretas IV. The other discoveries of altars and ritual offerings also imply that this was a public celebration and pilgrimage.

circa 100 CE

Human remains of 11 people were found in the burial crypt. It is believed that al least one of the remains belong to one of the relatives of King Aretes IV. Aretes IV was perhaps Petra's greatest and most successful ruler, at the height of Petra.

circa 100 CE

The paved floor of al-Siq, diappears under the sands some 300 meters before it reaches al-Khazneh. It was speculated in the later years of 1990s that it may have lead to the original ground floor of al-Khazneh which may lie at least 6-8 meters below the current ground level. Archaeologists thought that there might be an entire hidden level submerged beneath centuries of sands. And this level was discovered six meters below.

circa 100 CE

al-Khazneh, the Treasury, (illustration) is almost 40 meters high and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more. The Treasury is crowned by a funerary urn, which according to local legend conceals a pharaoh’s treasure. However, in reality the urn represented a memorial for royalty. The Treasury was most likely constructed in the 1st century BCE or the beginning of first century CE, The Treasury consists of two floors with a width of 25.30 meters and a height of 39.1 meters.


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