The International Ez Zantur Project

Preliminary Report on the 1998 Swiss-Liechtenstein excavations at ez Zantur

by Bernhard Kolb (with contributions by Laurent Gorgerat and Matthias Grawehr)

IX. Ez Zantur IV: A hoard of bullae from the 2nd century AD from room 15

The 1996 and 1997 campaigns brought almost no finds from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD to light, which is not particularly surprising considering the fact that the structures were in use up till the earthquake of 363 AD. However, we were lucky enough to uncover a hoard of about 80 clay sealings (bullae) from official Petraean seals of the 2nd centuries AD which lay buried in room 15 beneath the débris of the natural catastrophe of 363 AD (Fig. 13).

This find was a small sensation, it being the first evidence of this kind to have come to light in Petra. The only three published bullae from Petra, are those from the necropolis in Mampsis Negev 1969: 90. . Dr. Haim Gittler from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem kindly drew my attention to another, unpublished Petraean bulla which was found in Moa. The commonest type within the hoard shows the Tyche of Petra A sculptured head of Tyche was found in the excavation of Martha Sharp Joukowsky in the so-called South Temple in Petra . See Basile 1997: 255ff.; Sharp Joukowsky 1997: 86, fig. 85. .

Three sub-types can be distinguished (Fig. 13): 1.) Tyche with turreted crown and veil, sitting on a rock facing left. In her outspread right hand she holds a stela (?) and with the left she shoulders a tropaion. 2.) Bust of Tyche with turreted crown and a veil, facing right. 3.) Frontal bust of Tyche with turreted crown and veil. The Greek legends are unfortunately mostly lost or severely worn. The reverses of the bullae have the definite imprint of the papyrus documents which they originally sealed. The small holes from the lost cords which originally bound the papyrus documents can be seen on a few of the bullae. Tyche representations appear on Petraean coins for the first time under the Emperor Hadrian 117–138 AD; Wenning 1997: 104, fig. 113a–b. . Hadrian visited Petra in 131 AD and bestowed the status of a metropolis on the town. Official seals could only have been made in imitation of this coin design from the Hadrianic period onwards. If the reading col for colonia on one of the bullae is correct, then the series continues into the 3rd century because Petra was only raised to the status of a colony under the Emperor Elagabal (218–222 AD).

Fig. 13: EZ IV. Room 15. Bullae of the 2nd century AD (photo: O. Jäggi)
Fig. 13: EZ IV. Room 15. Bullae of the 2nd century AD (photo: O. Jäggi)

Since room 15 has not yet been completely excavated the analysis of the hoard in its find context has to be delayed. The closely packed bullae, the fact that they showed no traces of burning and that there was none of the papyri which they had originally sealed to be found suggests that they had been ripped off the documents and stored in some sort of receptacle. The only comparable hoard of bullae I can refer to was stored in a vessel. The hoard was found near the Solar Shrine at Lachish and is dated to the 7th century BC Ussishkin 1993: 909f. .

Bernhard Kolb
Schweizerisch-Liechtensteinische Ausgrabungen in Petra der Universität Basel
Schönbeinstrasse 20
4056 Basel