Fifteen missions from abroad, including teams from France, Italy, the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan and Belgium, are cooperating with the General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities to explore 15 projects at historic and archaeological sites in different regions of Saudi Arabia.
The archaeological survey began in the Kingdom 40 years ago with the implementation of five-year plans carried out by Saudi missions in cooperation with foreign missions. Through the missions, many archaeological sites were demarcated and recorded and some sites were chosen for further exploration.
Considering the diversity of various time periods, comprehensive excavations were taken up to cover various ages — from the prehistoric era to the advent of Islamic civilization.
The launch of archaeological studies in the Kingdom, in addition to field surveys and archaeological excavations taken up in all the regions, helped in collecting a tremendous amount of information and evidence covering periods stretching from prehistoric times to the late Islamic era.
Archaeological discoveries include artifacts from ancient cities, such as housing units, architectural buildings, castles, forts and towers. Other discoveries include ponds and dams, canals and wells, pottery, tools made of steatite, glass items of different colors and shapes, metal coins and ornaments, weapons made of minerals, and many rock drawings and inscriptions in Nabataean and Southern Mosnad, as well as other scripts.
Daifallah Ettalhi, head of Tourism and Archaeology at the University of Hail and the President of the Saudi side in the Saudi-French Mission at the site of Madain Saleh, said: “The Arabian Peninsula is the cradle of ancient civilizations, but many aspects of its great history are still unexplored. The Authority’s work in this field is to direct archaeological detection toward a deeper understanding of the history of Arab and Islamic nations, as well as human history in general.”
According to Ettalhi, the mission has found many artifacts in Madain Saleh, notably currencies dating back to the reign of Al-Harith, the fourth King of the Nabateans who ruled during the period 9 BC to 40 AD.
Abdul Aziz Gazan, the chairman of the Saudi Association for Archaeological Studies and the Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs of the Faculty of Tourism and Antiquities, said archaeological fieldwork in the Kingdom had turned more active than it was in the past.
“There are many foreign missions operating in Saudi Arabia in cooperation with the Saudi Mission, and this is a good thing,” he said.
However, there is a need to enhance field work by increasing missions operating at archaeological sites because archaeological work is a national act, the first goal of which is to rebuild and understand the history of the country since ancient times, he said.