Petra, an ancient site located in present-day Jordan, has more than a thousand tombs carved in the area’s rocky terrain. These tombs, carved by the Nabataeans between the first century BCE and the second century CE, were places that housed, commemorated, and protected the dead.
Europeans first discovered Petra in the early nineteenth century when Johann Burckhardt, a Swiss-born and British-sponsored explorer, entered the area. The Europeans were fascinated with the classical façades carved into the red rock and gave them fanciful and imaginative names without realizing that these were tombs.
Petra had water available which made it an important stopping place for desert caravans crossing the desert from Arabia and Iraq with cargos of luxury goods bound for the Mediterranean markets in the Levant. For many of the nomadic tribes involved in trade, such as the Nabataeans, this site also came to be used as a burial site.
In the seventh century BCE, the Nabataeans were a nomadic group occupying the region of Tayma and Madain Salih in northern Arabia. They controlled an area on an important trade route which brought incense and spices into the Levant.
Source: Ancient Petra