AlUla unveils groundbreaking study on Neolithic settlements in northwest Saudi Arabia

AlUla unveils groundbreaking study on Neolithic settlements in northwest Saudi Arabia
1 / 2
The study examined 431 standing stone circles at various sites in Harrat Uwayrid in AlUla, with 52 undergoing field surveys and 11 being excavated. (SPA)
AlUla unveils groundbreaking study on Neolithic settlements in northwest Saudi Arabia
2 / 2
The study examined 431 standing stone circles at various sites in Harrat Uwayrid in AlUla, with 52 undergoing field surveys and 11 being excavated. (SPA)
Short Url
Updated 09 July 2024
Follow

AlUla unveils groundbreaking study on Neolithic settlements in northwest Saudi Arabia

AlUla unveils groundbreaking study on Neolithic settlements in northwest Saudi Arabia
  • Research, conducted under the auspices of the Royal Commission for AlUla, reveals a more sophisticated society than previously imagined
  • Jane McMahon from the University of Sydney explained that they have uncovered a complex community that engaged in cattle herding, crafted jewelry, and participated in extensive trade

RIYADH: New archaeological evidence reshapes the understanding of Neolithic life in northwest Saudi Arabia, according to a study published in the journal Levant.

The research, conducted under the auspices of the Royal Commission for AlUla, reveals a more sophisticated society than previously imagined, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Jane McMahon from the University of Sydney, working with a research team as part of an RCU-supervised excavation project explained that they have uncovered a complex community that engaged in cattle herding, crafted jewelry, and participated in extensive trade networks. The strategic location of these settlements facilitated commerce with distant regions, including eastern Jordan and coastal areas along the Red Sea.

The research team has presented its latest conclusions and observations on archaeological investigations of structures known as standing stone circles. These dwellings consist of vertically placed stone slabs forming circles with diameters ranging from four to eight meters.

The study examined 431 standing stone circles at various sites in Harrat Uwayrid in AlUla, with 52 undergoing field surveys and 11 being excavated.

Researchers found that stone slabs, arranged in two concentric rows, likely served as foundations for wooden poles, possibly made of acacia. These poles would have supported the structure’s roof. At the center of each circular dwelling, a single stone slab appears to have anchored the main wooden column. This architectural feature suggests a sophisticated understanding of weight distribution and structural support among the ancient inhabitants. The discovery of various tools and animal remains at the site has led archaeologists to propose that dwelling roofs were fashioned from animal hides.

McMahon explained that “this research challenges hypotheses about how early northwest Arabian inhabitants lived.” She emphasized that these people were not merely simple pastoralists but had distinctive architecture, domesticated animals, jewelry, and diverse tools. Based on the number and size of stone circles, their population was likely substantial and much larger than previously thought.

Rebecca Foote, who heads archaeology and cultural heritage research at the RCU, has emphasized the significant impact of the commission’s archaeological initiatives. Under the RCU’s supervision, what is described as the world’s most comprehensive archaeological program has yielded crucial insights into the lives of Neolithic inhabitants in the region. Foote underscored the commission’s dedication to continued research efforts aimed at highlighting AlUla’s diverse cultural heritage and ongoing work towards establishing a globally recognized hub for archaeological studies.

Researchers examining animal bones from the Harrat Uwayrid site have uncovered evidence of a robust prehistoric economy. The findings indicate that the ancient inhabitants relied on a mix of domesticated animals like goats and sheep, and wild animals such as gazelles and birds for their livelihood. This diverse approach to animal exploitation likely provided the population with resilience in the face of environmental fluctuations.

Excavations have unearthed tools linked to animal husbandry, including implements for wool shearing and sheep slaughter.

Arrowheads discovered match types used in southern and eastern Jordan, indicating clear interaction between the regions.

Small perforated snail and seashells, likely used as decorative beads, were found at the sites. These shells correspond to those from the Red Sea, 120 km away, suggesting import from the coast during the Neolithic period.

Other artifacts include sandstone and limestone ornaments and bracelets, as well as a piece of red sandstone chalk, possibly used for drawing.

Researchers concluded that the study “greatly clarified the connected (yet distinct) nature of the Neolithic period in AlUla.”

The research team included experts from King Saud University, local AlUla residents like Youssef Al-Balawi who provided ethnographic and cultural insights, and students from the University of Hail.


Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

Review: ‘My Spy: The Eternal City’ is a Bautista-led letdown

LONDON: Thanks in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic, we never really got to find out what audiences made of 2020’s “My Spy,” in which CIA operative JJ (Dave Bautista) is forced to team up with precocious 9-year-old Sophie (Chloe Coleman) to take down an international arms cartel.

The movie’s cinematic release, and subsequent box office receipts, were curtailed by global lockdowns as the film went straight to streaming, and found an audience suddenly a lot more tolerant of decidedly average content.

Anna Faris as Nancy and Dave Bautista as JJ in ‘My Spy: The Eternal City.’ (Supplied)

You wonder if, had audiences been able to vote with their feet first time around, “My Spy: The Eternal City” might never have seen the light of day. For while this is ostensibly a comedy-action romp co-starring a teenager, it is also a weirdly violent, oddly graphic spy caper that does not seem too sure of what it is trying to be.

JJ and Chloe now live in suburban almost-harmony. He has taken a desk job so he can be at home more, while she rebels against his overbearing presence and constant demands she keeps up her spy training. When JJ offers to chaperone a school trip to Italy, he must balance being a cool stepdad with a rapidly unfolding plot to blow up the Vatican in which the pair become embroiled.

Returning for the sequel are Ken Jeong as JJ’s boss, and Kristen Schaal as his nerdy analyst Bobbi. But if you are hoping that continuity of casting means a coherent follow up to the 2020 original, you are in for a disappointment.

Chloe Coleman as Sophie and Dave Bautista as JJ on the set ‘My Spy: The Eternal City.’ (Supplied)

Director Pete Segal (also returning) starts off with the same familiar, comedic beats (and leans heavily on this franchise’s spiritual predecessors “Kindergarten Cop” and “The Pacifier”) but makes the baffling choice to turn up the violence.

The sequence with some attack budgerigars is a particular lowlight, and the bottom-drawer comedy with jokes about bodily functions and a fight involving a naked statue.

It is all a bit of a mess, which is a shame, because Bautista (so good with deadpan comedy in the Marvel movies) and Coleman manage to recreate some of the same chemistry that was one of the few good things about the original.

That film was not great, sure, but compared to this, it seems like a fondly remembered masterpiece.


Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 

Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 

Institut du Monde Arabe’s ‘Arabofuturs’ examines singularities of the Arab world 
  • We need to ‘stop seeing the Arab world as a block,’ says IMA curator 

PARIS: The latest contemporary art exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris — “Arabofuturs,” which runs until Oct. 27 — is, according to curator Élodie Bouffard, “built around the dynamic of the singularities expressed in the Arab world, and the singularity of each of the artists.” Those artists come from the Arab world and its diasporas, and include Saudi artists Ayman Zedani and Zahrah Alghamdi, Lebanese sculptor Souraya Haddad Credoz, Tunisian artist Aïcha Snoussi, and Moroccan artist Hicham Berrada. 

The show is divided into two parts: “Programmed Futures” and “Hybrid Futures.” In the first, Bouffard explains, the featured artists explore contemporary society, “capitalism, ultra-consumerism, the question of exile, the diaspora, and identities — often through a post-colonial approach.” 

The second part tackles imagined societies — the artists deploy aesthetic fictions that take visitors into organic worlds “that make us travel in time, and reflect on transhumanism, the future of the human, and the resilience of nature,” Bouffard says. 

Saudi artist Ayman Zedani's video installation at 'Arabofuturs.' (Supplied)

Both sections underline that the notion, and perception, of the future is personal, with each artist drawing on his or her personal experiences. 

The exhibition begins with a space dedicated to artwork from Gulf, and an introduction to the concept of Gulf futurism formulated by Qatari-American artist Sophia Al-Maria and Kuwaiti musician and conceptual artist Fatima Al-Qadiri in 2012 as part of a photo series and interview in Dazed magazine. It was, according to the IMA website, “a worried questioning of the accelerated hyper-modernization at work in the region.” 

“This article was a pivotal moment in Gulf futurism, having led the artists to become interested in the question of futures and science fiction,” explains Bouffard. 

Sophia Al-Maria et Fatima Al Qadiri's 'The Desert of the Unreal.' (Supplied)

Al-Maria’s “Black Friday” — a series of photographs and a video installation — questions the standardization of spaces and the loneliness that can stem from it. It is followed by Al-Ghamdi’s “Birth of a Place,” which was previously displayed at the Diriyah Contemporary Art Bienniale, and explores new architectures. 

“She's trying to create a new cosmogony — a new (example) of the skyline, the enhancement of heritage, and the future of metal and glass constructions, in environments where there’s a real material and architectural cultural,” notes Bouffard. 

The aim of this section is to present the different approaches to architecture, heritage, identity, and exile in the Gulf and North Africa.  

A still from Larissa Sansour's 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain.' (Supplied)

“Themes pertaining to the future of societies can be rooted in their past,” Bouffard says. “It is our job at the IMA to stop seeing the Arab world as a block. We wanted to show that there is not just one future. When we talk about the future, everyone thinks of video games and artificial intelligence, but futures unfold in all forms. We thought it would be interesting to reflect on artefacts, paintings, ceramics, and organic material.” 

Al-Ghamdi, for example, used leather, an organic material in “Worlds to Come,” while Berrada used metal to create hybrid masks combining insects, plants, and humans in “Les Hygres.” Elsewhere, Credoz worked with ceramics “to shape coloured magma and build post-apocalyptic organic worlds,” Bouffard says. 

A piece from Hicham Berrada's 'Les Hygres.' (Supplied)

Snoussi, meanwhile, “recreates manifestos that bear witness to past societies that have disappeared, leading to Arabic writing, but also to Amazigh, with a theme of symbolism that recreates bridges between the present and the future.” 

Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour contributes “In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain,” a video from 2015 featuring archaeological activists burying porcelain bearing a keffiyeh motif, an attempt to make future claims on this territory. 

“She highlights the politicization of archaeology in Israel and Palestine in this video, which has a particular resonance today,” Bouffard says. 


Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph

Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph

Apple TV’s robot-themed comedy thriller ‘Sunny’ is a surprising triumph
  • Familiar genre tropes are combined to make a uniquely gripping show

DUBAI: The odd-couple premise of Apple TV’s “Sunny” isn’t particularly promising — in near-future Japan a grieving widow, Suzie Sakamoto (Rashida Jones) teams up with the titular robot to try and solve the mysterious disappearance (and, apparently, death) of her husband and son in a plane crash. So far, so meh.

But “Sunny” is actually a delight. In the three episodes available at the time of writing, it mixes gory violence, humor — both dark and silly, a quirky aesthetic, meditative takes on loss, and explorations of how technology plays on our fears and desires. Jones is excellent as the expat American who come to Japan seeking solitude and instead found love with the kind-hearted Masa (Hidetoshi Nishijima), with whom she has a son, Zen.

After their disappearance, Suzie is gifted a “homebot,” Sunny, by her husband’s employers, a tech firm for whom Masa was a refrigeration engineer. At least that’s what he told Suzie. But then she’s told that Masa programmed Sunny especially for her — her first clue that perhaps Masa hasn’t been entirely honest with her.

Suzie is not a fan of technology, so her first instinct is to reject Sunny’s overbearingly cute attempts to bond with her, just as she tries to ignore her mother-in-law Noriko’s cutting tongue and clear disdain for the American her son chose to marry.

But as Suzie uncovers more details about her husband’s work life (at a company party, one of Masa’s minions talks of him fearfully), and his disappearance, she begins to realize that Sunny may hold the key to uncovering a sinister conspiracy.

Suzie is aided in her quest by a cocktail-bar waitress, Mixxy (singer-songwriter and social-media star Annie the Clumsy), who provides another awkward corner to the Suzie-Sunny relationship, as well as a window for Suzie into the underground world of bot-hacking. But while Suzie carries out her own investigations, she too is being stalked and observed by a shadowy criminal gang led by the sinister and scary Hime, who, it seems, also knew Masa.

“Sunny” is a gripping slow-burn, confidently paced by showrunner Katie Robbins and beautifully acted by its mostly Japanese cast. Despite the show’s many strands, Robbins’ deft touch means it avoids drifting into confusion, instead holding the audience’s attention as it leads you into a story that uses familiar elements from multiple genres to create something unique.


‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ filmmaker Shawn Levy ushers titular anti-heroes into the Marvel fold 

DUBAI: Canadian filmmaker Shawn Levy says he was thrilled to helm Marvel’s first R-rated superhero outing — “Deadpool & Wolverine” — which lands in cinemas July 25. 

“I was thrilled by Marvel’s lack of boundaries,” Levy tells Arab News. “Clearly (they) understood that to make a ‘Deadpool’ film that’s satisfying, it needed to be creatively and audaciously free. So, we were given very few limits. I think there was one joke in the entire movie that was requested to be changed.” 

“Deadpool & Wolverine” imports both Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and the newly resurrected Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) from 21st Century Fox and into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, currently reeling from a series of recent flops. In fact, “Deadpool & Wolverine” is the only cinematic release scheduled from the MCU this year. 

The film picks up six years after the events of ”Deadpool 2.” Wade Wilson has left his time as the mercenary Deadpool behind him, until the Time Variance Authority pulls him into a new mission. With his home universe facing an existential threat, Wilson reluctantly teams up with an even-more-reluctant Wolverine on a mission that, according to the blurb, “will change the history of the MCU.” 

Levy, who has previously worked with both Jackman (on 2011’s “Real Steel”) and Reynolds (on 2021’s “Free Guy” and the following year’s “The Adam Project”), says he has been a fan of the ‘Deadpool’ franchise since the first film came out in 2016.  

“I remember watching (the first) ‘Deadpool,’ and I was stunned because it redefined the superhero genre and it was also one of the most relentlessly funny and creative movies I’ve ever seen. It still is. I’ve watched it seven or eight times. So, I really came to this as a fan,” he says. 

“(When the opportunity came to direct this film), I realized: ‘I have the privilege to tell the first Deadpool-Wolverine story.’ I also thought: ‘Oh, I can not only honor these characters, I can also tell a story about friendship and about brotherhood that is as poignant as it is funny.’ And that felt like a great opportunity. 

“I came into this with a keen awareness of what preceded me,” he continues. “And I’m aware of the passionate love for this world and these characters around the world. So, I was humbled. I was momentarily daunted. But then I did a mental trick with myself where I focused on the opportunity, an opportunity to play in a sandbox that is familiar to the world, where the tropes and conventions and the encyclopedic possibilities were huge. And once I started focusing on the opportunity of stepping in, I wasn’t intimidated by it. I was excited by it.” 

Levy says there are two things he’s most excited about audiences discovering. “The first is: In a movie with Deadpool and Wolverine, we all know there’s going to be sick fights and there’s going to be a lot of them, and I think there’s a delightful surprise in the mandate we gave ourselves making this movie, which was that there should be an evolution to the action. It’s got a cinematic language, in that each action sequence has its own visual vocabulary. I think that’s going to be a delightful surprise. 

“But maybe the most subversive surprise of ‘Deadpool and Wolverine’ is the extent to which it is emotional,” he continues. “It is — especially in its second half — a very poignant film about friendship and about redemption.” 


Eminem set to perform at Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix after-race concert

Eminem set to perform at Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix after-race concert
Updated 18 July 2024
Follow

Eminem set to perform at Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix after-race concert

Eminem set to perform at Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix after-race concert

DUBAI: Global hip-hop star Eminem will be part of a stellar lineup for the 16th edition of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the 2024 Yasalam after-race concerts.

The American rapper will perform on Dec. 7, joining US pop rock band Maroon 5, who appear on Dec. 6, and British rock group Muse, who will hit the stage on Dec. 8.

Eminem has won 15 Grammy awards and an Academy award. His 2010 album “Recovery” was the first in the US to be certified platinum digitally. In March 2021, his greatest hits album, “Curtain Call: The Hits,” became the first hip-hop album to spend a full decade on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.

His latest album, “The Death of Slim Shady (Coup de Grace),” was released on July 12, 2024, and currently sits in the top 10 on the Rhythmic radio charts.

The after-race concerts will take place from Dec. 5-8, with access exclusive to Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix ticket holders.