- FM Fox
SA team to map Petra
30 November 2012|
A University of Cape Town research group has won a 30-month contract to digitally survey and map the fabled rock city of Petra, between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba in Jordan.
Once a thriving centre of trade, Petra was the capital city of the Nabateans, a nomadic people whose empire rose to its peak between 400BC and AD100.
The geologically fragile World Heritage Site was lost to the Western world for 17 centuries until 1812, when a Swiss traveller gained entry disguised as a Bedouin.
Part of the city's mystique lies in its inaccessibility. Entrance to Petra is through the Siq ("crack"), a narrow slot canyon up to 120m high and 1,2km long.
"Much of the city has been destroyed by natural weathering and earthquakes," says the survey team leader, emeritus professor Heinz Rüther. "Using GPS [global positioning systems] and photogrammetry, we are mapping the walls of the Siq and the most important structures in the valley."
The other team members from the geomatics department are Ralph Schroeder, Roshan Bhurtha and Stephen Wessels.
The project, to produce a stability plan for the tombs and temples of Petra, is being carried out in partnership with Unesco, the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection & Research and the Jordanian department of antiquities.
The partnership requires that the UCT team share its skills with Jordanian professionals and students.
Rüther's team is known for its heritage documentation skills, having covered 40 sites in 13 countries. It has digitally mapped many of Africa's heritage landmarks, among them the rock-cut churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia and the Valley of the Queens in Luxor, Egypt.
There are a number of components to the current operation, according to a UCT statement. The team will contribute to the design of the Siq Monitoring System, develop a Global Information System for the entire Petra National Park and create 3D computer models of the principal temples and tombs, the monastery and amphitheatre. All this will be combined in an interactive virtual tour of the site to which UCT computer science students are contributing.
Up to 5000 tourists a day visit the rugged mountainous site in high season, which as a Unesco World Heritage Site is considered one of the 28 places to see before you die.