This spectacularly sited Nabataean temple and pilgrimage centre lies some 100km north of Petra, crowning a conical hill that rises in the heart of Wadi al-El-Hasa. No village is associated with the site, which was excavated by an American team in 1936-37. The first small Nabataean altar, almost cubic in shape, was built here in the late 1st century BC on what may have been an Edomite high place. Among its ruins the excavators found charred remains of the wheat and small animals that pilgrims had sacrificed to their gods 2,000 years before.
About 100 years later, the sanctuary was expanded to occupy the entire mountain top. A paved sacred precinct, colonnaded on two sides and with four halls (triclinia) for ritual feasts, surrounded the larger altar that now enclosed the earlier one. Inside were enthroned statues of the deities to whom the temple was dedicated:
The Edomite Qos and Syrian Atargatis. A more spectacular carving of Atargatis crowned the entrance, leaves growing on her face and neck and with an eagle above her head, an attribute of Qos. This and other carvings suggest a cycle of worship based on the agricultural calendar.
In the 2nd century the temple was again expanded, and more statues were added, in particular of Atargatis, some with sheaves of grain or a dolphin on her head. The site continued to function as a pilgrimage centre until the late 3rd or mid-4th century AD.