Sunday, July 15, 2007

Palace Tombs of Petra

The Royal Tombs
Al Khazneh-The Treasure

Petra is famous for having many stone structures carved into the rock. It was famously described as "a rose-red city half as old as time".

Petra, Jordan. Petra (from the Latin word 'petrae', meaning 'rock') lies in a great rift valley east of Arabah (Wadi 'Araba) in Jordan about 80 kilometers south of the Dead Sea. The Shiq, the two-kilometer (2200- yard), chasm leads into Petra.

Brief History:

On the edge of the Arabian Desert, Petra was the glittering capital of the Nabataean empire of King Aretas IV (9 B.C. to 40 A.D.).
Petra was first established sometime around the 6th century BC, by the Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria. Despite successive attempts by the Seleucid king Antigonus, the Roman emperor Pompey and Herod the Great to bring Petra under the control of their respective empires, Petra remained largely in Nabataean hands until around 100AD, when the Romans took over. It was still inhabited during the Byzantine period, when the former Roman empire moved its focus east to Constantinople, but declined in importance thereafter. The Crusaders constructed a fort there in the 12th century, but soon withdrew, leaving Petra to the local people. Petra's decline came rapidly under Roman rule, in large part due to the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled the vital water management system. The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by the Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the close of the 13th century. The long-hidden site was revealed to the Western world by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

Fascinating Facts:
Masters of water technology, the Nabataeans provided their city with great tunnel constructions and water chambers.
A theater, modelled on Greek-Roman prototypes, had space for an audience of 8,000.

Today, the Palace Tombs of Petra, with the 42-meter-high Hellenistic temple facade on the El-Deir Monastery, are impressive examples of Middle Eastern culture.

Built in: Al Khazneh was originally built as a royal tomb, probably between 100 BCE and 200 BCE .


The name Khazneh, which means 'treasury' comes from the legend that it was used as a hiding place for treasure. In practice, it seems to have been something between a temple and a tomb, possibly both at once. Behind the impressive facade, a large square room has been carved out of the rock of the cliff. The corners and walls have been squared off meticulously, but no attempt has been made to extend the excavations further or to reproduce the kind of ornate carving of the exterior. This is typical of the tombs in Petra; the interiors are as plain as the exteriors are intricate. From inside, you can look out through the
doorway towards the Siq.
The Khazneh faces onto a large open space, floored with soft sand and surrounded by high walls. Surrounding the open space dominated by the Khazneh are other tombs and halls mostly little more than man-made caves carved out from the rock. To the right, the path continues between more widely-spaced rock walls studded with smaller tombs, which are visible as black holes in the rock. A little further on, on the left is the giant semicircle of the amphitheatre (see pic above). Behind it, the rock wall is pitted with tombs. Close to the
theatre, a flight of steps marks the start of the climb towards the High Palace of Sacrifice, while continuing towards the right, the wadi widens out. Ahead lies the centre of the city, while following the cliff face further to the right takes one to the Royal Tombs (see pic above).

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Pyramid of Chichén Itzá

Temple of Kukulcan

The Maya name "Chich'en Itza" means "At the mouth of the well of the Itzá ". Although this was the usual name for the site in pre-Columbian times, it is also referred to in the ancient chronicles as Uucyabnal, meaning "Seven Great Rulers".

Location: Mexico (earlier northern center of yucatan peninsula)

Brief History:
Chichén Itzá is possibly the most famous temple city of the Mayas, a pre-Columbian civilization that lived in present day Central America. It was the political and religious center of Maya civilization during the period from A.D. 750 to 1200. At the city's heart lies the Temple of Kukulkan (pic above)

The Temple rises to a height of 79 feet (24 meters). Each of its four sides has 91 steps—one step for each day of the of the approximated tropical year recorded by the portion of the Maya Calendar known as the Haab, with the 365th day represented by the platform on the top, Inside the temple chamber is a Chac Mool statue and a throne in the shape of jaguar, painted red with spots made of inlaid jade.

The square base measures 55.3 m across. The overall structure has nine levels, which may be a parallel to the Maya cosmological view of there being nine levels in the Maya Underworlds. We are lead to believe this because of the staircase in the center of the pyramid having 13 levels, the number of levels in the "upper worlds".

Built in: Between the 11th and 13th centuries AD

Amazing facts:
Clap your hands in front of the 1,100-year-old Temple of Kukulcan, in the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, and, to some researchers' ears, the pyramid answers in the voice of the sacred quetzal bird.

Some of the other Fascinating structures of
Chichén Itzá
1) The Temple of Warriors
2) The Temple of Jaguar
3) The Observatory- Carocal
4) The Ball Court Temple
5) The Cenote
6) High Priest's Temple

More about the Maya Civilization and Pyramids please visit the site mentioned below

Machu Picchu

Location: Andes Mountain, Peru. The city has an altitude of 8,000 feet and is high above the Urubamba River canyon cloud forest.

Brief History:
Machu Picchu (which means "manly peak") was most likely a royal estate and religious retreat. It was built by an Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui. The Inca were warriors with a strong and powerful army. Because of the fierceness of their army and their hierarchical organization, they became the largest Native American society. The height of their reign in the 15th century came to a brutal end in 1535 when the Spanish conquistadors took over their territory.The Incas had an army which consisted of 40,000 people. The Spanish army in the Americas had only 180 people. How could an Army of only 180 defeat an army of 40,000 men? There are three main reasons for this.
1) Much of the Incan army died as a result of smallpox, which was carried to them via the Spanish Conquistadors.
2) The Spanish Conquistadors were able to convince other tribes, already under Incan rule, to side with them and over throw the Incan Empire.
3) The weapons used by Incan warriors ,though effective in tribal warfare, were no match for the Spanish arms.
Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.

Built in: 1460 and 1470 AD

The Amazing Facts:
Machu Picchu is comprised of approximately 200 buildings, most being residences, although there are temples, storage structures and other public buildings. It has polygonal masonry, characteristic of the late Inca period. Their cities and fortresses were mostly built on highlands and on the steep slopes of the Andes Mountains (See pic above). The architecture of the Inca cities still amazes and puzzles most scientists. Stone steps lead up to the top of the cities, which consist of stone houses and religious buildings. The blocks of stones weigh several tons and they are fit together so tightly that not even a razor blade can fit through them. The most famous of the buildings include The Citadel, The Great Central Temple, The Temple of the Three Windows, The Temple of the Moon

Our very own Taj Mahal

The tomb of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz

Isnt it totally awesome! The symbol of love for all. The changing light and shadows affect the colour and patterns of the Taj Mahal. The Taj is pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden when the moon shines.

Location: Agra, India. Set on the banks of river Jamuna (Yamuna)

Short History:
The construction of this marble masterpiece is credited to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who erected this mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal. Soon after the Taj Mahal's completion, Shah Jahan was deposed and put under house arrest at nearby Agra Fort by his son Aurangzeb. Legend has it that he spent the remainder of his days gazing through the window at the Taj Mahal. Upon Shah Jahan's death, Aurangzeb buried him in the Taj Mahal next to his wife, the only disruption of the otherwise perfect symmetry in the architecture.

Construction began in: 1632 A.D.

Completed in: 1648 A.D.

Cost: 32 million Rupees

No of Workers: 20,000

The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. Over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials during the construction. The translucent white marble was brought from Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble.

Myths associated with the Taj:
Myth No 1: Numerous stories describe — often in horrific detail — the deaths, dismemberments and mutilations which Shah Jahan inflicted on various architects and craftsmen associated with the tomb. No evidence for these claims exists.
Myth No 2: Shah Jahan planned a duplicate mausoleum to be built in black marble across the Jumna river.