The ancient city of Petra in Jordan is known for its fascinating ruins built into surrounding rocky cliffs, and now archaeologists have made an exciting new discovery. Using satellite images, they recently discovered a massive subterranean monument that remained hidden for years. The monument is about the length of an Olympic swimming pool and twice as wide.

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The archaeologists used satellite imagery to find the platform, which is 184 feet by 161 feet. An interior platform had columns along one end and a huge staircase. Based on pottery studies, the researchers think the platform could be at least 2,150 years old.

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Given the colossal size, it’s surprising no one has yet discovered the monument, but the researchers said it was difficult to get to and “hidden.”Even though the monument is close to the center of Petra – just around half a mile south, prior surveys didn’t find it. The paper the archaeologists published is titled “Hiding in Plain Sight.”

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Co-author of the paper Christopher Tuttle told National Geographic, “I’m sure that over the course of two centuries of research [in Petra], someone had to know [this site] was there, but it’s never been systematically studied or written up. I’ve worked in Petra for 20 years, and I knew that something was there, but it’s certainly legitimate to call this a discovery.”

Tuttle told The Guardian the platform could have been used for “some kind of massive display function.” Throughout the rest of Petra, there are several shrines and sites used for “various cultic displays or political activities.” However, one reason the new monument stands apart is because the massive staircase doesn’t face Petra’s city center.

“We don’t understand what the purpose [of visible shrines], because the Nabateans didn’t leave any written documents to tell us,” Tuttle said. “But I find it interesting that such a monumental feature doesn’t have a visible relationship to the city.”

As of now the researchers don’t have a plan for excavation, but they hope to work at the site at some point.

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikimedia Commons (1,2)