BiblePlaces Newsletter
Vol 8, #1 - April 7, 2009

This issue features some of my favorite things.  The free photos this month are from a recent trip to Petra, the red sandstone city of the Nabateans.  Years of searching for rare and expensive volumes on the Holy Land finally paid off with the discovery of the Survey of Western Palestine, online and for free (most of it, anyway).  And this week brings, at least in my family, the combined celebration of the Passover, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.    The Lord is good, and I wish for you his very best.

Todd Bolen


News from the BiblePlaces Blog...

Foot-Shaped Stone Enclosures Discovered in Israel - Enormous enclosures in Samaria and the Jordan Valley may be related to the ancient Israelites and possibly to biblical "gilgal" structures...

Restoration of Western Wall in Jerusalem - The deteriorating condition of stones in the wall of the Temple Mount is now being addressed by conservationists.  The article includes 34 high-resolution photos of the wall and the restoration process...

Aren Maeir on the 35th Annual Archaeological Conference - The presentation on the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon suggests that a full reading of the five lines may never be possible...

James Ossuary Trial Drags On - The Israel Antiquities Authority has been presenting its case since September 2005 and a co-defendant finally took the stand...

New Items in the Store - A bag of rocks, an archaeologist calendar, and fibers from the rope of the high priest are among the specials that arrived just in time for April 1st...

And more...

Survey of Western Palestine:
Rare and Expensive, but Now (Mostly) Free

For years I have desired my own copy of the Survey of Western Palestine, a series of volumes that describe the land as it was in the 1870s in extraordinary detail.  Alas, they are extremely difficult to find.  Daily searches for the set on the internet for more than a decade have been fruitless, with possibly one exception ($10,000+).  In 1999, Archive Editions produced a facsimile edition, but they have been charging 3,995 ($5,956) for it.  Some years ago I found a copy of just the maps for sale in Germany and purchased them immediately.  That later became the SWP Maps volume in the Historic Views series ($35 here).  But my thirst for the complete set has gone unsatisfied. 

A few weeks ago, however, an electronic edition of one of the volumes was offered for sale by an internet bookseller.  I made the $10 purchase, only to discover that the bookseller was illegally selling a Microsoft scan.  But that alerted me to their existence, and now I have identified electronic versions for 10 of the 13 volumes.  Of the other volumes, two are already resources available from (the maps volume, mentioned above, and the General Index volume).  Another volume is in the late stages of preparation.  So while we're not quite there, this should be enough to give you a jump on your summer reading.

If you want them all, I've made it easy by creating one large zip file (175 MB).

Available Volumes:

An Introduction to the Survey of Western Palestine: Its Waterways, Plains, & Highlands (1881), by T. Saunders (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology: Galilee (Volume 1) (1881), by C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology: Samaria (Volume 2) (1882), by C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology: Judea (Volume 3) (1883), by C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Jerusalem (1884), by C. Warren and C. R. Conder (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: The Fauna and Flora of Palestine (1885), by H. B. Tristram (pdf).

The Survey of Western Palestine: Arabic and English Name Lists Collected during the Survey (1881), by E. H. Palmer (pdf)

Special Papers on Topography, Archaeology, Manners and Customs, etc. (1881), by C. Wilson, C. Warren, C. R. Conder, et al. (pdf)

The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoir on the Physical Geology and Geography of Arabia Petraea (1886), by E. H. Hull (pdf)

Survey of Eastern Palestine: Topography, Orography, Hydrography and Archaeology: The Adwan Country (1889), by C. R. Conder (pdf)

Available from

A General Index to The Memoirs, Vols. 1-3; The Special Papers; The Jerusalem Volume; The Flora and Fauna of Palestine; The Geological Survey; and to the Arabic and English Names List (info, pdf)

Map of Western Palestine in 26 Sheets from Surveys Conducted for the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund, by C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener (1880).  The CD edition also includes the map from the Survey of Eastern Palestine (info, order)

Forthcoming from

Excavations at Jerusalem 1867-70 (50 Plates), by C. Warren.

UPDATE (Feb 2014): This article has been updated to reflect additional volumes now available.

Featured BiblePlaces Photos:

Petra is probably not mentioned specifically in the Bible, though it clearly qualifies as a "Bible Places" site because it was an important part of the world of the Bible.  In the Old Testament times, some have suggested that one of the mountains in Petra was "Sela" (see 2 Kgs 14:7; 2 Chron 25:12; Isa 42:11), and it certainly seems to bear similarities to the prophecy of Obadiah (esp. verses 3-4).  In any case, it was certainly part of the territory of the Edomites.  By New Testament days, Petra was a fabulously wealthy and beautiful Nabatean city, and some have suggested that Paul's time in Arabia was spent here (Gal 1:17).  Whether or not that is true, at one time in his life, Paul was on the run from a Nabatean ruler (2 Cor 11:32). 

This month's featured photos are recent and unpublished.  Each photo below is linked to a higher-resolution version which may be used freely for personal and educational purposes.  Commercial use requires separate permission.  You may also download these photos in a PowerPoint file (1.9 MB).  For more high-quality, high-resolution photographs and illustrations of biblical sites, purchase the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands or the Historic Views of the Holy Land collections. 


The Siq

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Entrance to Petra is via the awe-inspiring Siq.  This 0.7 mile (1.2 km) long gorge brought not only travelers but three water systems into the ancient city.  Along the way were votive niches where the Nabatean gods were portrayed and honored.  At the end of the Siq, the visitor's first view is of the Treasury.


The Treasury (Kazneh)

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Carved in the red sandstone from the top down with hammers and chisels, the Kazneh is one of the most impressive structures in Petra.  Its name, Khaznat Far'oun (Treasury of Pharaoh), comes from the local tradition that the Egyptian king hid his valuables in the urn at the top.  Created by the Nabateans in the 1st century BC, the structure incorporates Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Roman motifs and served as the tomb shrine for one of the rulers.


Main Street, Theater, and High Place

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Once believed to be only a city of the dead, archaeologists now know that Nabateans lived in this city for hundreds of years.  The theater was carved out of the sandstone and could seat approximately 8,000 people.  The heights above were the location of the sacrificial altars.


Great Temple

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Located northwest of the Treasury and theater, the Great Temple has been excavated in recent years by Brown University.  The lower temenos was surrounded by approximately 100 columns, and some of the columns were crowned with elephant-head capitals.  The temple itself measures 105 by 127 feet (35 x 42 m) and was the largest free-standing structure in Petra. You can read more about the temple and its excavation at the Brown University website.


The Monastery

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

Larger but carved with less detail than the Treasury, the Monastery (ed-Deir) gets its name from crosses that were scratched inside by later visitors.  As with the other tomb monuments, the beauty is all external and the interior room is plainly carved.  A nearby inscription suggests that it was built for King Obodas I, who ruled in the early 1st century BC and was deified after his death.


Jebel Haroun (Mount of Aaron)

Click picture for higher-resolution version.

The Bible locates the burial of Moses' brother Aaron on Mount Hor, in the general vicinity of Kadesh Barnea (Num 20:22-29).  A later tradition identified this 4,580 feet (1,350 m) peak in the land of Edom as the Mountain of Aaron.  Today a small 14th century chapel sits atop the summit in the vicinity of the Nabatean city.



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All contents (c) 2009 Todd Bolen.  Text and photographs may be used for personal and educational use.  Commercial use requires written permission.