Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level



Environmental Dynamics


Thomas R. Paradise

Committee Member

Joel Gordon

Second Committee Member

Jackson Cothren


GIS, Nabataeans, Petra, Space, Spatial, Urban


The Nabataean city of Petra is well known for its sandstone architecture and rock-hewn funerary landscape. Over the last few decades, numerous studies examined their history, culture, art, and architecture. The few studies that assessed the urban space of Petra focused on the functional properties of individual architectural forms and their nominal placement within the overall landscape. This study focused on the spatial configurations of architecture as relational to the dynamics of Nabataean politics and ritual where shifts in social order manifested similar shifts in spatial order which in turn produced and reproduced forms of social order. The production of space within Petra’s urban milieu was analyzed as relational to the social forces that sought to reproduce the power and legitimacy of the prevailing political authority. Borrowing from recent theoretical frameworks where landscapes may be assessed through experiences, perceptions, and representations, it was possible to develop an innovative and practical set of spatial analyses that assessed the functional, political, and ritual properties of the environmental dynamics of Petra’s landscape in order to elucidate the planning strategies implemented by Nabataean authorities in establishing new forms of political and spatial order. The functional properties were determined by analyzing the structural arrangement in relation to their topography including their accessibility and water networks. The perceptual properties of structures were assessed through visibility analysis and the modelling of viewsheds and isovists. The representational properties of structures were assessed through the implementation of horizon diagrams to model the visible sky, solar pathways, and structural orientation. This study found that the spatial ordering of Nabataean Petra occurred through i) the functional ordering of movement and flow of people and water that legitimized the perceived control of both, ii) the framing of new forms of political institutions within previously established spatial domains of ritual, iii) the exclusive control of elevated urban spaces and the cooperative relationships between elevated institutions, iv) and the cosmic ordering of significant ritual spaces and institutions in order to portray new representations of political constitution. The results of this study demonstrate clear efforts by Nabataean authorities to implement planning strategies that spatially ordered Petra’s landscape towards establishing and constituting new forms of social order.