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The Betyls of Petra

Robert Wenning
Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
No. 324, Nabataean Petra (Nov., 2001), pp. 79-95
DOI: 10.2307/1357633
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1357633
Page Count: 17
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The Betyls of Petra
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Abstract

The Nabataeans venerated their deities in betyls (aniconic stone slabs). This contribution, based primarily on a survey carried out by the author in Petra, offers an overview of the main aspects of these betyls. After a discussion of the terminology of the term "betyl," the deities connected with betyls in Nabataean inscriptions are listed, resulting in the conclusion that the betyl indicates the divine presence of whatever deity is being represented, and is not restricted to Dushara and Al-ʿUzza. The relation of the betyl and the nephesh is sketched. A typology of betyls based on their shapes shows possible varieties and peculiarities. The criteria for the classification are enlarged to include the niches and their surroundings. The placement of the niches, their functional setting, the installations associated with the niches, some pictures with betyls, and the mōtab as a sacred area for Dushara contribute to establishing the role of the betyl in cultic practices of the Nabataeans.

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