Petra and Paradise: U of A Professor Leads Research for Smithsonian Channel

Thomas Paradise being filmed atop Jebel Madbah, the High Place of Sacrifice, above the Valley of Petra.
Blink Films - UK

Thomas Paradise being filmed atop Jebel Madbah, the High Place of Sacrifice, above the Valley of Petra.

A University of Arkansas professor whose research in Petra, Jordan has spanned more than 25 years, will be the focus of a May 1 upcoming special on the Smithsonian Channel.

Thomas Paradise, professor of geosciences in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, was part of a team that worked on the special, Secrets: Riddle of Petra. The special was filmed and produced by Blink Films Pictures in London, as a multi-part series for the Smithsonian Channel, an international science documentary channel.

Paradise, considered one of the leading researchers on the ruined city of Petra, has worked as a consultant for a number of production firms including NOVA, Discovery Channel, NatGeo, NBC and CBS-TV. His current research on the possibility of a catastrophic flood that may have inundated the city in the 4-5th century is a focus of this documentary.

Because Paradise has training in geology, architecture, geography and cartography, he was asked to work in the on-air commentary, script work, cartography, imagery, and fact-checking of this extensive project, making him part of the project and filming from beginning to end.

"I'm delighted to see how in-depth the producers and directors took this script and production. Rather than focus on the well-known attractions of Petra, they decided to elaborate on the science and archaeology that is transforming our knowledge of this magical place," Paradise said.

Secrets: Riddle of Petra is set to broadcast on May 1 at 7 p.m. (Arkansas, CDT), 8 p.m. (EDT). It will air on the Smithsonian Channel in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The Smithsonian Channel has one of the largest viewerships for documentary television worldwide.

"At a time when television often lacks critical and scientific inquiry, it was a pleasure to see such in-depth investigation and analysis done for mainstream television today," Paradise said. "As tourism in Petra reaches nearly 500,000 visitors this year, scientific research of this nature will only help in its protection and heritage management for generations to come."

Paradise joined the University of Arkansas in 2000 and has published more than 60 articles, reports and chapters on Petra, Jordan for publications including the Journal of Physical Geography, American Journal of Archaeology, Geomorphology, Conservation, Geografiska Annaler, and Zeitscrift fur Geomorphologie.

Department of Geosciences: The Department of Geosciences within the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in geography, geology and the natural sciences. 

King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies: The King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies is an academic and research unit in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. As an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental area studies center that offers diverse cultural, intellectual, and educational opportunities for the University of Arkansas community, it promotes research and teaching in interdisciplinary Middle East studies. The center offers an undergraduate major in Middle East Studies and supports graduate studies in related departments through the Middle East Studies Program, as well as summer language study and research assistantships for graduate students and teaching and research by visiting scholars from affiliated universities and programs.


Tom Paradise, professor
Department of Geosciences

Andra Parrish Liwag, director of communications
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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