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The Deep Dig

Petra, Jordan: “The Rose-Red City Half as Old as Time”

Thursdays, June 2-23, 2022 |
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM ET

This is a virtual event.
The entrance to Petra, the facade of a two story palace cut directly into a cliff face.


Virtual Event - Penn Museum

Event Type

Adult Classes

Grow your mind among Ivy League educators. Cultivate your curiosity about ancient history, exciting excavations, and cultural heritage connected to the Penn Museum's unparalleled collection and research. Each Deep Dig course consists of four live virtual classes led by Penn faculty and scholars, as well as other experts in the field, and includes access to digital readings, online archival research, and videos. No archaeology or anthropology background required; just bring your love for lifelong learning!

What do Moses, Aaron, Trajan, and Indiana Jones all have in common?

The answer is Petra.

Nestled in a rugged mountainous basin in southwest Jordan, the magnificent ruins of the ancient city of Petra were named in 2007 as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.” 2,000 years ago, Petra was the capital of the Nabataeans, an Arab people you will meet in this course, who dominated the contemporary incense and spice trade routes crisscrossing the Arabian Peninsula.

Petra is famous for its more than 800 hand-hewn monuments carved into the pink sandstone cliffs, some soaring up to 150 feet, an inspiration for works by modern artists, poets, and movie directors. A rock-cut theater could seat about 8,500 people, the remains of Petra’s commercial center litter the hillsides, and evidence of sophisticated water hydrology impresses even today.

Severe earthquakes in 363 CE and 551 CE led to Petra’s eventual abandonment; the city was not “rediscovered” until 1812. Archaeological investigations only began in the mid-20th century. As you will see, many mysteries still lie buried beneath Jordan’s ancient sands.

This virtual Deep Dig course first orients you to Jordan and Petra itself, both ancient and modern. You will then experience a first-hand virtual tour of Petra’s major monuments. Finally, Dr. Steve takes you with him inside an archaeological excavation at Petra’s “Temple of the Winged Lions,” where he served as an Area Supervisor. This combination of cultural context and hands-on detail will help you answer the question: is archaeology at all like Indiana Jones?

Members are welcome to attend a preview of the class on May 24 at 7:00pm. Learn more and register here.


  • Thursday, June 2
  • Thursday, June 9
  • Thursday, June 16
  • Thursday, June 23

$175 General | $125 Member

4 Classes

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Scholarships are available. Please send an inquiry to

Dr. Steven Phillips sitting amongst archaeological ruins.

Stephen “Dr. Steve” Phillips, Ph.D., is the Curatorial Research Coordinator in the Egyptian Section of the Penn Museum. Dr. Phillips earned a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of biocultural anthropology, focused on ancient Egypt. In addition to his work in the Egyptian Section, “Dr. Steve” is also one of the Penn Museum’s most prolific educational outreach lecturers/ambassadors. He has participated in a wide range of archaeological excavations spanning 30 years, including fieldwork at Petra, Jordan, with the University of Utah and at Tor Faraj, Jordan, with the University of Tulsa. He was the Field Laboratory Supervisor for four seasons of the Penn Museum excavation at Fontechevade, France. In Egypt, he was a surveyor and photographer for the Penn Museum excavation at Saqqara, as well as the Site Supervisor and human remains specialist for the joint Cairo University-Brown University Giza Expedition in the Great Western Cemetery, adjacent to the Pyramid of Khufu. He has also been a professional guide for three group tours to Egypt.

Dr. Phillips’ research centers on paleopathology and the use of modern forensic anthropology techniques in the analysis of ancient Egyptian human skeletal remains, to respectfully restore individuality to fellow human beings who were alive when the Great Pyramids of Egypt were essentially still new. His study of 27 sets of human remains recovered by the joint Cairo University-Brown University Giza Expedition, along with his separate reports on separate archaeological aspects of that project, was recently published in Volume 5 (2021) of Brown University’s Wilbour Studies in Egyptology and Assyriology.

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