The ancient city of Petra (in Jordan) has captured the imagination for nearly a century in popular media, as witnessed by Agatha Christie's 1938 novel Appointment with Death, and films such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and, most recently, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) (Figure 1 and Figure 2). A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, Petra was also elected in 2007 as one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” As this famed archaeological site celebrates the 200th anniversary of its western re-identification by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812, a variety of research is underway to gain fresh insight into how this ancient trading hub successfully sustained a population of more than 20,000 residents in an arid, desert environment, some 2000 years ago.

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