The Nabataeans: From Desert Nomads to Creators of Petra, with Jane Taylor

Spectacularly illustrated talk about Petra, the stirring, mysterious, unlikely city of the Nabataeans, former nomads who carved their city into the desert's few, sheltering rocks.


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The Nabataeans are one of the most unjustly forgotten people of the ancient world, known today (if at all) for their heart-stoppingly beautiful rock-carved capital – Petra, in today’s Jordan. In the mid-1st millennium BC they were like every other nameless and insignificant nomadic desert tribe, and to survive they had imposed draconian laws – no houses, no crops and no alcohol on pain of death. But they soon became known for their skills with water control, desert survival and trade in incense and spices.

How did they take the next step and become the fabulously wealthy and sophisticated people who, by the turn of the millennium, had created one of the most spectacular capital cities of the known world?

In this richly illustrated talk, Jane Taylor will look at the origins of the Nabataeans in the deserts of Arabia, where their skills both in water management and in trade enabled them to control long stretches of the Incense Route. As their wealth grew, so did their need for settled bases. And so began the process of change: from a life of almost perpetual motion to one of settlement. Buildings, agriculture and central government began to transform an increasing population into city dwellers, farmers, statesmen, water engineers, soldiers, artists and architects... But they did not, as far as we know, produce an historian of their own. All the records we have of them were produced by writers from other nations.

It was all too good to last – in ad 106 the power-hungry Romans, having taken over all the territories that surrounded the Nabataeans, snatched the last remaining piece of the jigsaw of the Middle East.


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Jane Taylor

Jane is a writer and photographer.

Her work as a photographer has taken her to Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Ethiopia, Iran, Peru, Turkey, China, Nepal, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. She photographed in Iraq for UNICEF and other relief agencies in April-May 1991 and Jan.-Feb. 1992 to show the effects of the war and sanctions on the people of Iraq, in particular the children.

She lived in Jordan for 27 years. Her books include Testament to the Bushmen (with Laurens van der Post) ~ Jordan; Images from the Air; with a foreword from King Abdullah II ~ Imperial Istanbul ~ Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans ~ Yemen, Land and People (with Sarah Searight) ~ and Beyond the Jordan




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2017Martin Keeley