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.


King Salman leads Saudi official condemnations of Florida attack

Updated 7 min 34 sec ago

King Salman leads Saudi official condemnations of Florida attack

  • King orders Saudi security agencies to cooperate with US investigators to bring about a speedy resolution to the incident

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Salman called US President Donald J. Trump Friday night to express his deep sorrow and grief over the Florida shooting of a number of American citizens by a Saudi student.
"The king extended his sincere condolences and sympathies to the President and to the families of the victims, wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded," the Saudi Press Agency reported.
"The king also affirmed that the perpetrator of this heinous crime does not represent the Saudi people who respect and appreciate the American people," the report said.
King Salman also assured President Trump of Saudi Arabia's support to the US and told him that directives had been issued to Saudi security agencies to fully cooperate with the US security agencies in their investigations to get to the bottom of the incident.

Adel Al-Jubeir, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said: “My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to the American people, and to the families of those effected by the tragedy that unfolded at Pensacola."

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar said her thoughts are with the families of those effected by the shooting.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the foreign minister, described the shooting as a "heinous crime."

"The Kingdom expresses its deepest condolences to the families of victims, and to the American people. We salute the bravery of those who neutralized the threat and saved lives," he said.

Deputy Minister of Defence Prince Khalid bin Salman also extended his condolences to those effected.

He said that like many Saudi military personnel he was trained in a US military base.
“We used that valuable training to fight side by side with our American allies against terrorism and other threats,” Prince Khalid said on Twitter.

“A large number of Saudi graduates of the Naval Air Station in Pensacola moved on to serve with their U.S counterparts in battlefronts around the world, helping to safeguard regional and global security. Today's tragic event is strongly condemned by everyone in Saudi Arabia."