Winged Lions Temple

Winged Lions Temple

The temple was revealed by an electronic sounding in 1973, and since 1974 excavation at the Temple of the winged lions became a major part of the activities of the American Expedition to Petra, directed by Dr Philip Hammond from Utah University.

The temple has a porch in antis measuring 9.50m in length, from which a wide doorway leads into a square calla (measuring 17.40x17.40) with engaged columns and two rows of free standing columns.

Opposite the doorway there is a raised altar platform (1.30m high) with steps built into either end of the front, which were closed by iron gates. The discovery of lead ties suggests that the platform may have been curtained. Processions were probably performed around the altar- platform where the idols were standing. One of them is decorated with a stylized human face and bears the Nabataean inscription "the goddess of Hayyan Bin Nybat".

In the rear wall of the platform there was a niche for offerings to the temple. A diorite statuette of Osiris, dated to the sixth century Bc, was discovered at the temple and was probably stored as a sacred relic. Other figurines and a statuette representing mourning Isis suggest that the temple was dedicated to Isis and Osiris, identified with Dusares (Dhu- shara) and al- 'Uzza- Aphrodite.

The column bases consist of ring marble around the plain base. Brown marble was used on the platform columns and white marble on the others. Some of the elaborate capitals have representations of winged lions at the corners, hence the name of the temple. It is thought that these were the capitals of the platform columns.

The main floor of the temple was paved with white and brown banded marble, while the platform   was paved with white and black marble. The interior was lavishly decorated with marble, plaster and stucco. Plaster affixes, representing human heads, tragic masks and floral designs were found. The temple most probably had a curved ceiling, and the roof was tiled.

The temple is approached for 85m the wadi by a monumental     entry- way with a double colonnade. This entry- way crossed the wadi by a bridge. At the east side of the temple, there is a paved corridor with a drain canal under the floor. A reception area was found at the southwest corner of the temple, and there are complexes of structures tied in with the walls. These were mostly domestic but also included a painter's, a metalworker's and an altar maker's workshops, an oil manufacturing installation and a marble stairway to the west, as well as a marble worker's workshop in which fragments of a marble inscription dated to the 37th year of Aretas IV (AD 26/27) was found. The excavator proposed that this was a dedicatory inscription for the temple, therefore dating its construction, but it is probable that the temple was standing before this date- at the end of the first century BC. The final destruction of the temple and surrounding complexes was brought about by the AD 363 earthquake.

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