Palace Tomb

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Palace Tomb (ضريح القصر) has one of the largest facades in Petra. It is located at the foot of Mount al-Khabta, north of the Corinthian Tomb. Meant to resemble a palace, it measures about 50 meters width and is almost as high, with part of the upper levels built instead of carved out of the rock. It was probably erected near the end of the Nabataean period at the end of the 1st century CE.


It is one of the four so-called Royal Tombs of Petra. Ideally, this could be the tomb and/or heroön of the kings of Petra within the basileia, exactly as in other Hellenistic royal quarters.

The tomb's name is derived from its supposed resemblance to a Roman palace design popularized by Nero's Golden House, as well as its wide and richly decorated structure. The descriptive name is based on its appearance today, rather than historical evidence for its use by royalty or occupation as a palace. The title “Palace Tomb” is recorded in the earliest catalog of tombs in Petra (no. 765).

circa 100 CE

The Palace Tomb was built toward the end of the first century CE. This date is derived from the tomb's architectural style and its relationship to other nearby tombs, specifically due to the “marked deterioration” of its decorative classical elements. This construction is significant as the Palace Tomb is one of the only monuments in Petra which mixes the carved and built structure.


circa 100 CE

At 49 meters wide and 46 meters tall, its rock-hewn façade is one of the largest in Petra. The facade of the Palace Tomb, the lower part consists of 12 decorated columns and four gates. The facade of the Palace Tomb has three stories, the highest of which is notable because it reaches beyond the face of the cliff and is built (inspect), rather than carved, in the top left corner. The second portal from the left is one of the most detriorated. The four portals lead in to four separate burial chambers, with three distinct stories in it's facade.

circa 100 CE

Interior Architecture
There are four burial rooms, some of which have graves carved into the walls. Additionally, several of these rooms have niches carved around them, in line with the natural patterns of the rock. The interior of all four chambers is different.

circa 100 CE

Lower Story
The first story has four aediculae, or small shrines surmounted by columns, which act as entryways into the tomb. The middle two of these thresholds are almost twice as wide as the outer two. A further distinction is that the middle entrances have triangular pediments, while the outer are semi-circular. These aediculae lead into four burial rooms, some of which have graves carved into the walls. Additionally, several of these rooms have niches carved around them, in line with the natural patterns of the rock.

circa 100 CE

Upper Story
The second story has eighteen engaged columns whose capitals are unevenly spaced across its façade. These columns lack the simple decoration of those on the first story, but are otherwise almost identical. Between the eight inner-most second-story columns, rectangular niches have been carved at irregular intervals. These columns end at the third story's cleanly carved base. Much of the third story is not preserved, as it extends beyond the existing rock face and had to be constructed from ashlar blocks to complete the uneven shape of the facade.

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