Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a Nabataean monument during an excavation at Jordan's ancient city of Petra, the English language newspaper Jordan Times reported on Wednesday.
It quoted Patricia Bikai, who headed the excavation team that made the discovery, as saying that they "initially thought the building was either a shrine or a royal residence".
"However, after further examination we identified the monument as a banquet hall, which was decorated with 22 stone heads of ancient gods," she added.
Bikai, an archaeologist at the American Centre of Oriental Research (ACOR), pointed out that the monument, which dated back to the first century, was only found last week after her team had been digging in the area for the past four years.
She said the remains of the building, which had probably collapsed after a major earthquake in 363 AD, were buried in its basement that was covered by sand.
The heads were on the capitals of the columns around the main room. "I have never seen anything like it in Petra before," Bikai said, adding that each of the discovered heads was unique and represented a different figure. "We have so far identified eight to 10 of them," she said.
In April last year, French archaeologists unearthed the head of a marble statue believed to be that of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, in front of Qasr Al Bint in the ancient city of Petra.