Abu Dhabi: A number of Saudi artefacts have gained international fame as they find a mention in a number of archaeological research work and in archeological magazines.
These pieces were famous because of the beauty of their design and the quality of their sculptures, in addition to their archaeological value, contributing towards them being considered as masterpieces.
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The ‘Man of Suffering’ statue is one of the most famous Saudi artefacts and one of the most prominent items in the exhibition ‘Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia, hosted by a number of international museums.
The ‘Man of Suffering’ is a sandstone statue, found near the town of Al Kahfa, 200km south of Hail. The origin of the piece dates back more than 6,000 years. The statue bears an expression of sadness in the sunken eyes and mouth, with the hand extending towards the heart being a metaphor for the suffering as depicted by the sculptor.
Saudi archaeologist Dr Saad Al Rashed says that this piece is the result of archaeological surveys and inspections of the antiquities sector in the region of Hail. The item dates back to the 4th millennium BC. It is a carving showing a facial expression, bearing tenderness, peace and perhaps alluding to a funerary experience.
Also among the famous Saudi artefacts is the ‘Monument with the Eyes’, a memorial “tombstone” inscribed with a human face dating back to the 5th century BC, found in Tayma. A memorial in the Aramaic language is inscribed on the stone: “On the Memory of Taim Ibn Zaid.”
This piece is the only clear evidence of the existence of cultural contacts between Tayma, the northwest and south of the Arabian Peninsula and the south.
Also notable is the ‘Lady of the Faw’, which is a bronze head of a woman from the first century BC, found in the village of Al Faw, about 700km southwest of Riyadh.
The lady’s hairstyle is similar to that of Roman women during the first century BC.
In addition to these pieces, there are two bronze statues, which were found in the village of Al Faw. The first statue is of Hercules, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, carrying a baton in his right hand and a lion skin on the left. This piece is the only statue of Hercules in the world that shows him beyond the stage of youth.
The second item in Al Faw is a statue of the legendary Egyptian figure ‘Herbocrates’, who wears the double crown of the Pharaohs.
These statues were made during the period from 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD, and they are approximately 25.3cm high.
The inhabitants of Al Faw possess distinct capabilities in the art of engraving, drawing, writing and making statues using various tools with great skill.
There is also a colourful drawing of the greats of the Kinda Kingdom in the form of a mural dating back to the first century BC. This too was found in the village of Al Faw. The painting depicts a man with thick hair with grape clusters behind him. He has a light, curved moustache, which was common among people during the first centuries in southern Arabia, and there are two servants surrounding this man who represents a prominent figure in Al Faw.
Among the famous Saudi antiquities is the statue of the ‘Thaj Girl’, which was found within the Thaj treasure, which is a precious archeological treasure that contains necklaces, gold placards and a small statue of a girl and two gold rings, inlaid with red carved rubies.
The girl’s statue dates back to the first century AD. It’s made of bitumen, iron and lead and is 46cm high.
Major commercial routes
The statue was discovered in a burial site at the site of Thaj in Jubail in 1998 as part of the discovery by Saudi scholars. The burial dates back 2,000 years, that is, to the Hellenistic period. In that era, the Arabian Peninsula was connected to the Mediterranean Sea by major commercial routes.
Incense convoys in southern Arabia crossed these routes, one of which was passing through the city of Thaj. This burgeoning trade may have been the source of the wealth that allowed for the placing of antiques on the tomb. Historical and archaeological information indicates that settlement in the Thaj region dates back to the Stone Ages and the settlement flourished in Thaj approximately from 332BC and until the first century AD.
Significance of the exhibition
‘Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia’: Organised by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), it is one of the most important Saudi exhibits. It portrays the cultural depth and traditions of the kingdom in the most famous international museums — most notably in European and Asian capitals, and in American cities. The exhibition, through its 14 international channels and two local channels in Riyadh and in the King Abdul Aziz Centre for World Culture in Dhahran, constitutes an important and exceptional opportunity to introduce the kingdom’s culture as well as that of the Arabian Peninsula to five million visitors.
The exhibition highlights the historical depth and cultural variety that Saudi Arabia possesses and also indicates its pivotal role across the ages as a crossroad of important international trade routes and a hub of international commerce. The role still exists today and the exhibition shows that the cultural assimilation in the kingdom was no coincidence or born around the discovery of petrol in the past century, but rather an accumulation of cultures that was possible in the kingdom, which impacted the world. These cultures contributed to shaping human history, boosting human and cultural relations throughout history and acting as the home for Abrahamic religions and significant historical events that changed the course of the world.
The kingdom boasts of great honour also at being home to the Two Holy Mosques and for being the land of the Quran and the Revelation, all of which signify the important role played by the kingdom over thousands of years — politically, culturally, economically and in religious terms as well.
Readers can explore galleries of archaeological treasures of Saudi Arabia at http://roadsofarabia.sa/.