Basalt Millstone

Object: Petra33
JIAAW, Loan from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

This rotary mill is made from basalt, a volcanic stone found at Petra. Each mill was made of one stationary stone and one funnel-shaped stone that fit over it. The funnel-shaped stone was turned by animals or people using wooden levers that fit into the slots on the ‘ears’ of the stone.

Mills like this were used to crush grains and remind us of the importance of the agricultural lands outside of Petra’s city center. While many representations of Petra highlight its desert location, water systems designed by the Nabataens directed water around Petra for agricultural uses in the hinterlands and for aesthetic purposes within the city.

This is one of the many artifacts from Brown’s excavations from 1993 to 2008, directed by Martha Sharp Joukowsky, of a series of structures known as the “Great Temple Complex” of Petra. The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology began its work at Petra with the excavation of the Great Temple, however its involvement has continued with further research on the hinterlands of Petra. The Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP) was an archaeological survey of the Petra hinterlands conducted from 2009 to 2013. The Brown University Petra Terraces Archaeological Project (BUPTAP) is currently underway, and is carrying out further research on the terraces examined in BUPAP’s initial research. 

-Jess Porter, JIAAW Operations and Events Coordinator

Learn more about ancient mills:

Basalt Grinding Mill

The basalt grinding millNote the basalt stone of the mill Look at the texture and color of this piece of stone and notice how it differs from the other objects on this tour. The mill is made from basalt, another stone found at Petra that comes from a previous volcanic eruption near the site.

Pompeii Art and Architecture Gallery

The frescoes, mosaics and buildings, by Dr Joanne Berry

Roman Mills

The Romans constructed mills for use in agriculture, mining and construction. Around the 3rd century BCE, the first mills were used to grind grain. Later developments and breakthroughs in milling technology expanded their use to crushing ores in mining and such construction activities as cutting wood and marble.