French archeologists find Marcus Aurelius 'head'


AMMAN, April 22 (AFP) - French archeologists have unearthed a perfectly preserved head of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the ancient Nabatean city of Petra south of Jordan, the head of the mission told AFP Thursday.

"A monumental white marble head, in excellent condition, belonging to a statue the emperor Marcus Aurelius was found in Petra by French archeologists," Christian Auge said.

The head of the 2nd century AD Roman leader who was also known as the "good emperor" or the "philosopher-king" was found in the Qasr al-Bint area of Petra, a Nabatean city famous for its rose-red temples dug in the rock.

Auge said the marble head was found in the "temenos", a sacred courtyard around the Qasr al-Bint, one of the main temples in Petra.

"It was found head down amid rubble resulting from the destruction of a monument that had been built on the western edge of the sacred courtyard," Auge said.

He said it must have fallen off a statue during an earthquake that struck the region in the 4th century.

The head is 50 centimeters (20 inches) high and 35 centimeters broad, or twice life size.

French archeologists have been working on the Qasr al-Bint site since 1999.

Last week they found one of the thumbs of Marcus Aurelius and last year they unearthed a foot which belonged to his statue.

They are financed by the French foreign ministry and the French national scientific research council and workd in cooperation with Jordanian authorities.

The Nabateans were Arabs who dominated the region during pre-Roman times but their growing economic and political power worried the Romans who dispatched a force to subdue Petra in 63 BC.