Move to heighten awareness of Saudi Arabia antiquities

Updated 15 November 2017

Move to heighten awareness of Saudi Arabia antiquities

LONDON: Archaeologists flocked to Riyadh in mid-November for an event aiming to boost understanding of Saudi Arabia’s little-known ancient past.
The Antiquities Forum held between Nov. 7-9 was the first of its kind, aiming to showcase pre-historic artefacts found in the country, as well as to highlight the role of government and the population in preserving the Kingdom’s history.
“I have never seen an archaeological convention like this,” said Michael Petraglia from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, who attended the event and has worked extensively on archaeological projects in Saudi Arabia.
“There is no doubt that there is a sea-change in Saudi Arabia in respect to the support for the place of archaeology in the region and in the culture. This is a very major public display of support for archaeology.”
Petraglia led a project known as “Green Arabia” — a joint initiative between Oxford University and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and funded by the European Research Council — which has revealed evidence of ancient waterways and lakes in Saudi Arabia capable of supporting animals such as hippos and elephants as well as early humans.
The research suggests the region has gone through a cycle of having a wet, green and humid environment to one of arid desert.
“It is a dramatic finding. People didn’t realize this and how important Arabia was as a stepping point between Africa and the rest of Eurasia,” Petraglia said.
Saudi Arabia is planning to build a number of new museums and support further archaeological research.
“The country has been developing its antiquities infrastructure,” said Huw Groucutt, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford.
“There is definitely a drive to understand the ancient past of Saudi Arabia, and that is great,” he said.
Geoff Bailey, professor of archaeology at the University of York, who has been involved in Saudi Arabian projects since 2004, said: “SCTH has encouraged and greatly expanded international participation in archaeological research of all periods (Islamic, pre-Islamic, Stone Age).”
“Currently there are nearly 20 international projects of this sort, including our own,” he said.
The Antiquities Forum was held as global interest in Saudi Arabia’s past was further piqued by the publication of pictures of ancient “gates” or stone walls last month, discovered deep in the Saudi desert by the archaeologist David Kennedy, a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia.
The stone structures were spotted using Google Earth and were built around now-extinct lava lakes, and could date back as much as 9,000 years.
As yet there is no agreement on what the gates were used for. One theory is that they were used in hunting to funnel stampeding gazelle, while another suggestion is that they were a place where rituals were conducted.


Saudi Arabia will ease COVID-19 lockdown from Thursday

Updated 36 min 49 sec ago

Saudi Arabia will ease COVID-19 lockdown from Thursday

  • Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said the easing will take place in phases
  • Al-Rabiah said the people of the Kingdom had shown a “high amount of responsibility"

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will begin to ease its COVID-19 lockdown from Thursday.

Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said the easing will be done in phases and will depend on reports on the spread of the virus. 

The first phase will begin with expanding capacity to serve "critical patients" and the second phase will include intensifying COVID-19 tests and early detection .

Speaking in a press conference on Monday, the Health Minister said the people of the Kingdom had shown a “high amount of responsibility in practicing social distancing.” 

"After five months since this pandemic have started, where the global health systems faced great difficulties in dealing with it, the society has become today more aware of this virus and implementing the measures of the social distancing, as it is a new experience for all of us," he said in remarks quoted by the Saudi Press Agency. 

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READ MORE: Saudi crown prince says COVID-19 will pass

Saudi Arabia reports 9 new COVID-19 deaths

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Rabiah said imposing the precautionary measures during an early phase of the pandemic had put the Kingdom in more control of the virus spread.

"We are proud of the Saudi experts in this field who are internationally recognized, and we rely on their experiences in dealing with that virus," he added.  

The minister said that people should continue taking precautionary measures while leaving their homes by using facemasks and hand gloves.

The Health Ministry recorded nine new fatalities and 2,235 new cases of coronavirus in the Kingdom on Monday. The new deaths have increased the virus-related toll in Saudi Arabia to 399 and the total number of confirmed cases to 74,795. 

It also said the number of recoveries has risen to 2,148, raising the total number of recovered cases 45,668.