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Types of Tomb Facades

This overview of eight facade types is based on the typology introduced by Brünnow & von Domaszewski. The drawings are taken from their 1904 book.
More about, see below 

Single Pylon Tomb
Frieze with a row of crowsteps (stepped merlons) over a relief moulding, and sometimes another narrow, plain frieze.

Double Pylon Tomb
Two friezes of crowsteps with relief mouldings above and below.

Step Tomb
Two sets of steps facing each other, over a cavetto (concave moulding) cornice, and fascia (horizontal, threefold mouldings, projecting from bottom to top).

Proto-Hegra
Two sets of steps facing each other, over a cavetto cornice, and fascia. Pilasters with Nabataean capitals support the architrave.
"Hegra" refers to the second largest Nabataean settlement on the southern border of the kingdom, today's Mada'in Salih in northwest Saudi Arabia.

Hegra
Two sets of steps facing each other over a cavetto cornice, and fascia. A non-decorative attic is added above the classical entablature supported by the pilasters. In this attic there are occasionally dwarf pilasters or half or quarter columns.

Arch tombs
Single or double arch supported by corner pilasters. Sometimes the door is also framed by pilasters with capitals that support a second arch, which may have an ornament in the middle. Tombs of this type are small.

Simple Classical
In the basic structure pilasters with Nabataean capitals under an entablature, above which a triangular pediment rises. The facade can be structured by a doorway architecture with pilasters, capitals and attic or other decorative elements.

Complex Classical

Complex Classical
The basic structure and the variety of architectural and decorative elements are inspired by Hellenistic architecture. The most famous example is Al-Khazneh (Treasury), probably built in the second half of the reign of King Aretas IV. (reigned 9 B.C. - 40 A.D.), where clear references to the Ptolemaic palace architecture of Alexandria can be seen. It served as a model for some other facades of the complex-classical type, of which there are 35 in Petra, such as the Corinthian Tomb and Ad Deir (Monastery).


More about the tomb facades

The rock-cut facade tombs recorded in Petra sum up to about 628. They were created from the middle of the 1st century BC to 129 AD. Many are part of larger burial complexes, which could include forecourts and triclinia. These were meeting places of clans, where, in addition to honoring the dead, festivities and other social activities took place. Most of the rock facades in Petra were covered with light-coloured stucco and they were painted, which protected the soft sandstone from erosion.

In 1897-98 Rudolf Ernst Brünnow and Alfred von Domaszewski produced maps of Petra with the grave facades, which they described and numbered. The catalogue in their famous publication from 1904 still serves as reference today: BD or Br. with the respective number.

Sources, among others:

Rudolf-Ernst Brünnow und Alfred von Domaszewski: Die Provincia Arabia, Volume 1.
Verlag Karl J. Trübner, Strasbourg 1904.

Lucy Wadeson: Blick hinter die nabatäischen Grabfassaden
In: Petra. Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung "PETRA - Wunder in der Wüste. Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, 23 October 2012 - 17 March 2013. Basel 2012, pp. S. 120 - 126

Lucy Wadeson: The development of funerary architecture at Petra: the case of the facade tombs.
In: Men on the Rocks. The Formation of Nabataean Petra. Proceedings of a conference held in Berlin, 2-4 December 2011
Michel Mouton, Stephan G. Schmid (ed.). Logos Verlag Berlin, 2013, pp. 167 - 180


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