Tourist horse carriages ride in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. (Khalil Mazraawi, AFP)
Cape Town - Planet Earth has this way of keeping us captivated. Just as we thought we've seen it all, we stumble upon new discoveries that amaze us even more.
On 1 June this year, for example, a massive treasure trove of fossils was unearthed by roadworks on the N2 highway near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.
The fossils include a number of new invertebrates, as well as excellently preserved plant fossils of the Devonian era.
At the time of discovery, renowned palaeontologist Dr Robert Gess said the discovery was significant because "many species have not yet been documented by palaeontologists".
In September last year, history was also made when an awe-inspiring new species discovered at the Cradle of Humankind, Homo Naledi was unveiled to the world for the first time ever. This new species can be directly linked to the human gene pool, and is also thought to have practised cultural rituals previously thought limited to humans - the burial of their dead.
Maropeng Visitors guide: 6 Ideas to make the most of the Cradle of Humankind
But it's not only in South Africa where Mother Nature is revealing more and more of her ancient secrets.
On 8 June, NatGeo published photographs from satellites and drones, showing a huge ceremonial platform near the ancient city of Petra's centre.
The Petra UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in what is now part of southern Jordan, is a half-built structure which is partly carved into the iconic red sandstone of the mountain.
It is one of the world's most famous archaeological sites, where ancient Eastern traditions blend with Hellenistic architecture.
The newly discovered platform, which measures about 56 x 49 meters, appears to be a unique feature that has "no parallels at Petra or in its hinterlands at present," according to the NatGeo study.
"When National Geographic fellow Sarah Parcak shared the results of her latest research with us, we knew it would pique global interest given the historic significance of this treasured site," said Kristin Romey, archaeology writer for National Geographic.
They report that the monument is roughly as long as an Olympic-size swimming pool and twice as wide. It sits only about 800 meters south of the centre of the ancient city.
"The enormous platform has no known parallels to any other structure in Petra," Romey writes. "It's really a remarkable find for the archaeological community."
Check it out:
Take a look at some of the ever-popular ancient sites that include the Royal Tomb, the Monastery (Al Dayr) and the High Place of Sacrifice.
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