Petra is an Arabian city in the country of Jordan carved out of the sand-stone mountains in Wadi Araba. It was established over 2000 years ago and was the capital of the Nabataeans. The tombs and structures are now in danger of erosion due to earthquakes, floods and natural weathering and are thus in need of monitoring and documentation.
The laser scanning survey of Petra is part of the Siq Stability project, which is a "Funds In Trust" project of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for UNESCO. It is managed by the UNESCO Amman Office and has as main partners Italian geological experts from ISPRA (Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research - Geological Survey of Italy), the Zamani Research Group (University of Cape Town), as well as geologists and a surveyor from the Petra National Trust. It is undertaken in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DOA) and the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA).
The main objectives of the project are the development of a:
- Monitoring system aimed at detecting potential unstable rocks and at-risk areas.
- Guidelines for implementation of sustainable landslide mitigation strategies and for management of the Petra area.
- A GIS platform for storage, analysis and management of data relevant for the Petra Archaeological Park area.
- A 3D computer model of the Siq and the major structures and landscape of the site.
- A virtual tour of Petra.
The Zamani group is primarily responsible for the 3D modelling of the Siq, i.e. access route to the site based on terrestrial laser scanning and aerial photography, the creation of a comprehensive site GIS and database, a Virtual tour, and 3D documentation of the important tombs and structures.
The Zamani team has completed over 2,000 scans of Petra, produced 450 panoramas and acquired more than 20,000 additional digital images. The resulting point cloud is comprised of some 12 billion surface points. The point cloud includes scans of the rock walls of the Siq, which is the narrow access canyon to the site, the outside and inside of some 30 major structures in the two principal wadis of Petra, including the famous Treasury, Monastery, the Royal Tombs, the Soldier Tomb, the Garden Tomb, the Renaissance Tomb, the Amphitheater, Qasr al Bint and the Great Temple. All structures were fully scanned in very high detail (less than 1cm point interval) inside and outside and in some cases included underground tunnels. Also scanned were the general mountain terrain and much of the landscape surrounding the site.