The Petra Church ruins were first detected in 1973, during a sub-surface survey directed by Dr. Philip C. Hammond of the University of Utah. At that time, many of Petra’s sites were completely buried beneath desert sand and rubble debris. By 1990, American Center of Research’s archaeologist Kenneth W. Russell was able to identify the building as a Byzantine Era Church. When he began clearing debris from the floor, he immediately noted the importance of preserving the abundant mosaic tile tesserae.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the American Center has served as a leader in conservation and public education efforts surrounding the Petra Church and the remarkable 6th-century papyri found there, working in close partnership with the Petra Authority and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. We are proud to say that the Petra Church represents a major legacy of the American Center and many of our donors, whose directed donations served as a critical source of support.
Sections of mosaics in the Petra Church have been “adopted” by private donors who generously contributed support for the Petra Church Conservation Endowment. To find out about the people who donated to this campaign, often in honor of loved ones, please see below.
The design of the mosaic on the north side is composed of a pattern called an inhabited vine scroll in which vine tendrils emerge from a vase at the western end and form frames for medallions which include pairs of animals as well as six human figures. The human figures show the mastery of the mosaicists in creating the faces with very small tesserae.
These mosaic tiles have been “adopted” by private donors. In the North Aisle, donors generously contributed $1000 per medallion to conserve the unique mosaic designs. To read more about the many people who have donated to this campaign (often making their contributions in honor of loved ones), please see below.
Most of the south aisle is occupied by the Mosaic of the Seasons— so called due to the four figures in the central column. Greek inscriptions identify these panels as personifications of the Seasons.
Several of these mosaic tiles have been “adopted” by private donors. In the South Aisle, donors generously contributed $5000 per panel to conserve the unique mosaic designs. To read more about the many people who have donated to this campaign (often making their contributions in honor of loved ones), please see below.
Thanks to our generous donors, the American Center was able to implement a long-term preservation plan for the site involving archaeological excavation, conservation and stabilization, and finally the construction of a protective shelter over the Petra Church. Today, the Petra Church Conservation Endowment stands as a testament to this archaeological wonder and to the American Center’s ongoing efforts to conserve this site for future generations and make sure the full potential of publication and outreach is achieved to magnify the impact of its study. Further donations are welcome to help us address changing conservation needs associated with local environmental changes and increasingly severe weather events at the site.