There are several ancient places around the world that capture the imagination and make one crave to experience it first hand. Certainly Easter Island (Rapa Nui), the Egyptian pyramids, and Machu Pichu quickly come to mind. Put of all the places you could name, I think Petra in Jordan is the place I find draws me the most. When I saw that Petra was the cover story of the January/February edition of Nat’l Geographic’s History magazine, I couldn’t resist it.
While there are many places, including the Internet, where you can find amazing photos of this legendary “oasis” as the magazine calls it, here you will find the history of how Swiss scholar Johann Ludwig Burckhardt set out in 1812 disguised as Sheikh Ibrahim ibn Abdallah to discover the city that had been a “commercial power thriving along the trade routes between two worlds.” Speaking fluent Arabic, Burckhardt convinced his Bedouin guide that he was Muslim on a pilgrimage to complete a pious vow. Its location once a closely guarded secret, this city carved into sandstone cliffs was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom for many centuries and numerous legends have sprung up about it, including that of lost treasures buried within its buildings. Often referred to as the “Rose City” due to the red hue in the sandstone, the buildings rise more than 150 feet high and cover an area of 102 sq mi. Now a UNESCO Heritage site, Petra attracts approximately 600,000 visitors a year. The article by archaeologist Cruz Sanchez includes a beautiful graphic map with information about each of the buildings of the site and a photo of the gorgeous geology of the sandstone interiors of one Petra’s tombs.
Within this edition of History are other fascinating articles. There is a feature article about Egypt’s Book of the Dead, and one about Alexander in India, as well as an amazing discovery by archaeologists of what became of over 500 Spanish and their African, Mesoamerican, and Cuban allies who were captured in Mexico by a local tribe called the Acolhua. Captured in June 1520 and taken to Sultepec (later renamed Tecoaque), not one of the prisoners was still alive by the following March and until recently, their fate had remained elusive.
There are many other articles in this issue that are intriguing to anyone interested in history or archaeology: The Spanish Inquisition, the Posthumous Papal Prosecution, and a study of the career of General MacArthur. All in all, a fact-filled issue with something for everyone. On newsstands everywhere. * * * * *