Researchers examining dam construction and terrace farming techniques at Petra suggest that the Nabateans began employing these techniques around the first century, rather than the earlier Iron Age chronology hypothesized by previous scholars. New examinations using optically stimulated luminescence soil dating tie Petra’s developing irrigation to the region’s annexation by Rome. In a University of Cincinnati release, Brown University Petra Archaeological Project researcher Christian Cloke describes how “the explosion of agricultural activity in the first century and the increased wealth that resulted from the wine and oil production made Petra an exceptionally attractive prize for Rome. The region around Petra not only grew enough food to meet its own needs, but also would have been able to provide olives, olive oil, grapes and wine for trade. This robust agricultural production would have made the region a valuable asset for supplying Roman forces on the empire’s eastern frontier.” The Nabateans’ advanced understanding of water management–at first with dammed wadis and later with a complex plumbing network–transformed the arid region into a hospitable farming community that could support the urban population and its vast trade network.
Read more in the University of Cincinnati release “Research Unearths Terrace Farming at Ancient Desert City of Petra.”