Saudi archaeologists excavate ‘forgotten realms’ | History News
Kingdom archaeologists are working to excavate the remains of the ancient cities of Dadan and Lihyan in Al-Ula.
In the arid desert and mountains of Al-Ula, northwestern Saudi Arabia, archaeologists work to unearth the remains of the ancient and forgotten kingdoms of Dadan and Lihyan.
Al-Ula, a flagship tourist destination since opening in 2019, is best known for the majestic tombs of Madain Saleh, a 2,000-year-old town carved out of the rock by the Nabataeans, the pre-Islamic Arab people who also built Petra in the Neighboring Jordan.
A team of French and Saudi archaeologists is now focused on excavating five nearby sites linked to the Dadanite and Lihyanite civilizations, important regional powers that flourished 2,000 years ago.
“It’s a project that really tries to unravel the mysteries of [these] civilizations, ”said Abdulrahman al-Sohibani, who co-heads the Dadan archaeological mission.
Dadan is mentioned in the Old Testament and the Lihyanite kingdom was one of the largest of its time, stretching from Medina in the south to Aqaba in the north in present-day Jordan, according to the Royal Commission on the project.
Spanning roughly 900 years until 100 AD, the kingdoms controlled vital trade routes, but little is known about them. The team hopes to learn more about their worship rituals, social life and economy.
Previous excavations had been limited to the main area of the sanctuary, said Jérôme Rohmer, a researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research.
“We would just like to have a complete overview of the site’s timeline, the site’s layout, its material culture, its economy,” Rohmer added.
“It’s a global project where we basically try to answer all of these questions. “
In Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to transform the Saudi economy and society, Al-Ula has risen to prominence. The kingdom relies on tourism to try to open up to the world and to diversify its economy away from oil.
The development of Al-Ula is part of a process of preserving pre-Islamic heritage sites in order to attract non-Muslim tourists and strengthen national identity.