Saudi Arabia rich with undiscovered archeological sites

Updated 27 January 2019

Saudi Arabia rich with undiscovered archeological sites

  • “Our discoveries confirm that Farasan Island was inhabited by humans since prehistoric times,” says archaeologist
  • 10,000 sites have only been discovered in recent years

RIYADH: Archaeological digs in Saudi Arabia, according to Dr. Abdullah Al-Zahrani, General Director of Archaeological research Studies at the Saudi commission for Tourism and National Heritage, are increasing at an unprecedented rate.

“We discover new sites every day in Saudi,” he said, adding that there are over 100,000 sites of archaeological interest in the country. “Today we have more than 44 Saudi and international missions working in the Kingdom. Of those, 21 are from Germany, France, Italy, the US, the UK, Japan and China.”

It is a strange scenario, especially given that 10,000 of those sites have only been discovered in recent years. “The largest number of missions are from France,” Al-Zahrani added. “They are very interested in the history of the Arabian Peninsula.” 

The Saudi-French archaeological mission in Jazan region, led by Dr. Soline Marion de Bros, an archaeologist from the French National Center for Scientific Research, is one of the most prominent – and successful – teams working in the Kingdom today. Working to uncover the past of the Arabian Peninsula, it has been carrying out archaeological excavations on Farasan Island since 2017. 

So far, the team has revealed 30 sites dating back to pre-Islamic periods, including a number of settlements, animal remains including deer, cows, horses and turtles, and various finds including ancient Arabic inscriptions, and sites dating back to the Roman Empire.

“Our discoveries confirm that Farasan Island was inhabited by humans since prehistoric times,” said de Bros. “Since then, Farasan Island has been known for its cultural and commercial activities in the southern regions of the Red Sea, and in the northern part of the Great Farasan.”

The future of archaeology on Farasan Island is exciting. The next steps, according to de Bros, are to map the entirety of the island’s sites, creating a guide to its historical timeline and development. More local archaeologists, from academics to diggers, are also set for specialized training, to help uncover and preserve some of the Kingdom’s most precious new sites.

For Al-Zahrani, the progress is hardly surprising.

“Most of these missions have unanswered questions about our history and they know that the answers can be found here,” he said. “At the beginning of the 19th century, the Arabian Peninsula was a mystery to Orientalists, but they didn’t want to venture into the desert sands. However, in the late 19th century they came and got to know the lands and the people.

“Many sites were registered at that time, especially in the 1970’s, when a comprehensive archaeological survey was done. The results of that time provided a vast list of archeological sites,” he added.

Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019

Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

  • Mohamed Jafar and Hany Osman, cabin crew with Saudi Arabian Airlines, were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels targeted
  • Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi says officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests

COLOMBO: Two Saudis were among 31 foreigners killed in a string of Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said on Monday, a day after the devastating attacks on hotels and churches killed at least 290 people and wounded nearly 500.

The extent of the carnage began to emerge as information from government officials, relatives and media reports offered the first details of those who had died. Citizens from at least eight countries, including the United States, were killed, officials said.

Among them were Saudis Mohammed Jafar and Hany Osman. They worked as cabin crew on Saudi Arabian Airlines, and were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels that were hit.

Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi said that officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests on the two Saudi victims, and only after these are received will their names be confirmed.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the Sri Lankan government believes the vast scale of the attacks, which clearly targeted the minority Christian community and outsiders, suggested the involvement of an international terrorism network.

“We don’t think a small organization can do all that,” he said. “We are now investigating international support for them and their other links — how they produced the suicide bombers and bombs like this.”

The attacks mostly took place during church services or when hotel guests were sitting down to breakfast. In addition to the two Saudis, officials said the foreign victims included one person from Bangladesh, two from China, eight from India, one from France, one from Japan, one from The Netherlands, one from Portugal, one from Spain, two from Turkey, six from the UK, two people with US and UK dual nationalities, and two with Australian and Sri Lankan dual nationalities.

Three of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen’s four children were among the foreigners who were killed, a spokesman for the family confirmed. Povlsen is the wealthiest man in Denmark, the largest landowner in Scotland and owns the largest share of British online fashion and cosmetics retailer Asos.

Two Turkish engineers working on a project in Sri Lanka also died in the attacks, the English-language Daily Sabah newspaper reported. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gave their names as Serhan Selcuk Narici and Yigit Ali Cavus.

Fourteen foreign nationals remain unaccounted for, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said, adding that they might be among unidentified victims at the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer’s morgue.

Seventeen foreigners injured in the attacks were still being treated at the Colombo National Hospital and a private hospital in the city, while others had been discharged after treatment.