The Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management (TWLCRM) Initiative

This page is part of a series on Petra’s Temple of the Winged Lions. To start from the beginning, click here.

The Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management (TWLCRM) Initiative was launched in 2009 as a collaboration among ACOR, the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DOA), and the Petra Archaeological Park (PAP), the local authority that administers and manages Petra.

The TWLCRM Initiative aims to stabilize, conserve, and present the temple and its precinct for future generations, while also rehabilitating the surrounding landscape.

In addition to conserving the exposed building remains in line with current international standards, the TWLCRM Initiative has carried out site safety and interpretative enhancements to make the site accessible to visitors and to help them visualize the ancient site. Furthermore, the TWLCRM Initiative has redocumented the walls and features within the temple and recovered artifacts and objects through proper survey, measurement, photography, and drafting.

An intensive landscape-rehabilitation program has attempted to mitigate and resolve the impact that the earlier excavations of the American Expedition to Petra had on the temple site within Petra’s landscape. This has meant, among other things, removing the obtrusive excavation dumps and rubble piles scattered across the site, consolidating the architectural stone fragments on site, and backfilling numerous excavation trenches created during early excavations.

The soil cleared from the dumps, after it is sifted for pottery, coins, and other objects missed during the original excavation, has been “recycled” for use in the project’s various backfilling and conservation efforts. The site’s rock piles are recycled in a similar fashion, different stone types and sizes being sorted for use in backfill and site presentation efforts. While clearing and backfilling work continued, the TWLCRM conducted a vegetation study aimed at identifying and eventually reintroducing native species that will both stabilize the topsoil and rehabilitate the environmental context of the site.

While engaged in this work, the TWLCRM Initiative realized that long-term preservation of the site was a matter of not just conserving stones and clearing away rubble but also ensuring that local communities—long marginalized by scholars and authorities alike—were invited and empowered to participate directly in the goals of the project. This realization resulted in an innovative social engagement strategy that provided Petra’s local, mostly Bedouin, communities with employment, training, and educational opportunities in site preservation and cultural resource management.

In addition to the much-needed income for one of the poorest communities in Jordan, the several hundred employment opportunities also generated through the project—the majority filled by women and youths—have encouraged local communities to become equal stakeholders in the site’s preservation and sustainability. By having a nearly continuous, year-round presence on site (instead of working in the field only in the summer, as is typical for most foreign archaeological projects in Jordan), the TWLCRM Initiative developed a stronger relationship with the community, allowing for greater investment in the people being trained. For its efforts, the TWLCRM Initiative earned the Archaeological Institute of America’s 2015 award for Best Practices in Site Preservation and, more importantly, now serves as a model for how other community-based aid and development projects related to archaeology, cultural heritage, and tourism can be structured and implemented in Jordan.

During the course of the TWLCRM Initiative, educational programs have had pilot runs at the site, demonstrating their value to students and other visitors. In 2017, nearly 300 students participated in the Experience Archaeology program carried out by TWLCRM Initiative site stewards and team members, supported by USAID SCHEP, the PDTRA, and Jordan’s Ministry of Education. Hailing from eight different schools throughout Jordan, including Ayla, Bayt Ras, Busayra, Ghawr as Safi, Madaba, Bir Madkhour, Wadi Mousa, Umm al Jimal, and Wadi Ramm, students made the trip to the TWL to learn about the temple and to participate in hands-on activities such as sifting for archaeological objects, architectural drawing, architectural conservation, and learning about pottery. These students, aged 10–17, left with new appreciation for the temple and the preservation of archaeological sites in Jordan, encouraging them to become future stewards of their cultural heritage. The pilot program was broadened to include international tourists visiting Petra, which has demonstrated that it can be viable for engaging visitors, generating revenue, and employing local community members.

TWLCRM Initiative Directors (2009–present)

Christopher Tuttle: 2009–2014

Glenn Corbett: 2014–2017

Jack Green: 2017–present

The TWLCRM Initiative won a Best Practices in Site Preservation Award in 2015 from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) in recognition of its efforts. Photo shows Christopher Tuttle receiving the award. (Photo courtesy of the AIA.)

Conserving and Presenting the Temple of the Winged Lions


The Department of Antiquities carried out a number of small-scale restoration efforts at the Temple of the Winged Lions during the American Expedition to Petra, including the consolidation of columns and other features. In the early 1990s Hammond designed an ambitious project to restore the temple and prepare the site for visitors, but he was unable to obtain funds to carry it out. Over the decades, the effects of wind, water, and soil erosion, as well as solar radiation, salt efflorescence, and vandalism, have caused considerable damage to the temple and its site. Similar challenges exist for other excavated sites in Petra that have not been backfilled or sheltered. The exposed slope in the southwest quadrant was in danger of collapse. Scholars, as well as Jordan’s Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, were concerned that the lack of conservation on the site severely threatened the temple’s survival.

In 2009, ACOR, the Department of Antiquities (DOA), and the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA) established the Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management (TWLCRM) Initiative to preserve the archaeological site and make it accessible to visitors. With vital support largely from United States government funding sources, the TWLCRM Initiative has employed a holistic approach to the temple’s preservation that is environmentally conscious, highlights presentation and touristic potential, shares information, develops and codifies best practices for cultural resource management, and prioritizes community involvement.

A major goal of the TWLCRM Initiative was to repurpose the spoil heaps from the American Expedition to Petra, which surround the site. Team members sifted the spoil, removing stone debris and salvaging artifacts such as pottery and coins that the past archaeologists had missed. They filled handmade sandbags with the sifted soil, which could then be used to support conservation and backfilling needs around the site.

In 2014, Giuseppe Delmonaco and Luca Puzzilli of the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Italy (ISPRA), undertook a study of the underlying geology of the Temple of the Winged Lions in order to assess the stability of the site and the potential impact of seismic activity. The study found that the bedrock underlying the temple complex was much farther underground than expected and that its construction over a depression between two seismic faults makes the site particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. This informed the direction of conservation efforts at the site, which consequently buttressed and backfilled vulnerable areas and avoided attempts to further reconstruct columns or walls.

Before and after the application of a protective mortar capping on the cella podium in 2017. (Photos by Franco Sciorilli.)

Conservation work also related to cleaning and removing destructive salts and cements and to applying clean mortars in the temple cella (inner chamber). In the southwest quadrant of the temple, construction of a sandbag and soil buttress supported the rubble slope, and drainage and consolidation interventions were carried out on the slope and surrounding walls. Work was undertaken to support and conserve a number of leaning columns within the cella, to provide a mortar capping for the podium, and to backfill the floor of the temple in order to improve drainage and reduce the impact of salts.

The creation of paths and installation of interpretive panels, completed in 2018, help visitors navigate the temple safely and to learn more about this important site. In addition to standard graphic signage installed at key points around the site, augmented reality glass signs were installed to show how the temple may have appeared in ancient times. Graphic signage makes this site better interpreted and more accessible to community members and visitors than ever before. In 2019, PDTRA staff and students from Petra College of Tourism and Archaeology carried out a survey to assess the impact of the interventions on visitors and to gain valuable feedback on perceptions and usage of the site.

Schematic plan of Temple of the Winged Lions site and trails, including graphic signage locations as of April 2018. (Design by Qais Tweissi.)
Aerial photograph of the Temple of the Winged Lions, with extent of archaeological impact zone of the original AEP excavation highlighted. (Image by C. Tuttle.)

Next up | 4. The Temple of Winged Lions Publication Project

See also:
1. Petra’s Temple of the Winged Lions: Introduction , 2. Excavations: The American Expedition to Petra, and beyond, 5. Support for the Temple of the Winged Lions 6. Find out more about the Temple of the Winged Lions

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