Publication Date: 
Tue, 2012-02-14 04:08

RIYADH: Chairperson of the consultation committee at the National Museum Princess Adela bint Abdullah expressed her gratitude to all those who contributed to the return of antiques to the Kingdom.
Over 14,000 pieces retrieved from people in the Kingdom and abroad are now exhibited at the Saudi Arabian exhibition for recovered antiquities that runs until March 11 at the National Museum.
Princess Adela felt lucky that “many of those pieces were acquired by people who appreciated, valued and preserved them.”
She extended her appreciation to the American nationals who handed in the pieces they acquired during their stay in the Kingdom in the 60s and 70s. “There was no awareness of the value of antiquities in the Kingdom in those days.”
The exhibition was a combined effort of Aramco and the Saudi Commission of Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA). The commission started communicating in 2003 about antiquities and the need to procure them.
“The opening of the exhibition was postponed a few times, as the commission was hoping and waiting for more pieces to arrive,” said the princess, adding that citizens were receptive to the calls of the SCTA and returned many magnificent pieces.
“That shows great appreciation for the history of our nation and country. I believe that the gesture was a great one as after keeping them for a long time, some would feel that those pieces became part of their lives. Nevertheless they gave them up to the museum.” As a token of appreciation, the SCTA invited many of the Americans who returned antiquities.
Although many owners returned antiquities voluntarily, others were confiscated during attempts to smuggle them outside the Kingdom.
“The Shoura Council is preparing a museum and antiquity law which will include a penalty for those who acquire pieces illegally,” said the princess, urging all those who possess or know about any antiquities or artifacts to help return them.
The past few years the SCTA has been working actively at retrieving antiquities and preserving them. “Unless there is a suitably prepared location to exhibit and preserve the antiquities, they are better kept in the natural habitat where they are maintained,” said Princess Adela, adding the commission is keeping a comprehensive database on the locations of antiquities in the Kingdom.
She also indicated that the retrieval is done in collaboration with international experts from France, Italy, Russia and Germany. “Saudi academics and antiquities and tourism experts work closely with the international teams, as I have witnessed when visiting King Saud Center.”
An antiquities specialist of the museum Dlayel Al-Qahtany confirmed the exhibition was launched for the first time as a campaign to retrieve antiquities and draw attention to their historical values and cultural significance.
“The SCTA took large leaps toward caring for heritage, archaeological artifacts and antiquities. From a small administration for tourism and antiquities it evolved into an independent commission,” said Al-Qahtany, adding among the many presented and confiscated antiquities, there are pieces whose origins have not been identified.
Some pieces after examining them, Al-Qahtany said, were returned to Iraq and Yemen. “There are particular antiquities like the Tayma Needle that exists in the Louvre Museum in Paris and we are hoping to retrieve it one day too. Many of the foreigners recognized some antiquities as part of Islamic and Arabic culture,” said Al-Qahtany, adding many of the officials as well as the citizens returned the pieces in their possession.
A number of Americans who worked in the Kingdom many years ago and came across antiquities during their tours of the Kingdom expressed their delight in helping return the pieces to the Kingdom.
Ann Doon, who lived in the Aramco compound with her physician husband, said she had 41 pieces she collected while visiting historical sites in the Kingdom.
Contacted by SCTA through Aramco, she handed in all the antiquities that were in her possession. “They were a part of my home decoration, yet I am glad to see them exhibited where everyone can see them and learn about this culture.”

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