Land- and skyscapes of Hegra: an archaeoastronomical aanalysis of the Nabataean necropoleis

Rodríguez-Antón, A.; AlMushawh, M.; Urrutia-Aparicio, M.; González-García, A.C.; Belmonte, J.A.
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Nexux Network Journal

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The archaeological World Heritage Site of Hegra (Mada´in Salih, Al-Hijr), in Saudi Arabia, is often considered the southern capital of the Nabataean Kingdom. Positioned just northeast of the AlUla Valley (where ancient Dadan is located), the Nabataeans recreated several aspects of their northern capital, Petra. They carved more than 130 tombs into the sandstone outcrops of which nearly a hundred had a monumental character with ornate façades of exceptional beauty and deep sense of enduring. In February 2023, our international, multidisciplinary research team conducted a field campaign in Hegra. Our objective was to measure the orientation of Nabataean tombs and sanctuaries in the area, which could offer new clues to aspects of Nabataean culture and religion that we had studied in earlier works at Petra, and elsewhere in Nabataea. This paper includes the analysis and interpretation of the data on the orientation of 113 tombs, including all monumental ones, the largest coherent set of Nabataean tombs ever analyzed. The results show that the tombs were not randomly orientated but followed a series of patterns, most probably emphasizing the skyscape, within the framework of the Nabataean lunisolar calendar religious festivals, and, on occasions, also the local landscape.