In light of recent events in Egypt, I think this has become a very important article.

Egypt as every schoolkid knows, is one of, if not the, most important archaeologically/historically rich nations on earth. What we learn about ourselves from Egyptian history matters a great deal to keeping us on the right course. I post this article because it needs to be understood what the cost is to history itself if Ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood ever gets power in Egypt the way the Muslims did in Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is no mere clash of ideologies. This is the destruction of the time line itself.

Eeyore.

August 31, 2009

Lebanonwire

Digging up the Saudi past: Some would rather not
Donna Abu-nasr, Associated Press
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Much of the world knows Petra, the ancient ruin in modern-day Jordan that is celebrated in poetry as “the rose-red city, ‘half as old as time,'” and which provided the climactic backdrop for “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

But far fewer know Madain Saleh, a similarly spectacular treasure built by the same civilization, the Nabateans.

That’s because it’s in Saudi Arabia, where conservatives are deeply hostile to pagan, Jewish and Christian sites that predate the founding of Islam in the 7th century.

But now, in a quiet but notable change of course, the kingdom has opened up an archaeology boom by allowing Saudi and foreign archaeologists to explore cities and trade routes long lost in the desert.

The sensitivities run deep. Archaeologists are cautioned not to talk about pre-Islamic finds outside scholarly literature. Few ancient treasures are on display, and no Christian or Jewish relics. A 4th or 5th century church in eastern Saudi Arabia has been fenced off ever since its accidental discovery 20 years ago and its exact whereabouts kept secret.

In the eyes of conservatives, the land where Islam was founded and the Prophet Muhammad was born must remain purely Muslim. Saudi Arabia bans public displays of crosses and churches, and whenever non-Islamic artifacts are excavated, the news must be kept low-key lest hard-liners destroy the finds.

“They should be left in the ground,” said Sheikh Mohammed al-Nujaimi, a well-known cleric, reflecting the views of many religious leaders. “Any ruins belonging to non-Muslims should not be touched. Leave them in place, the way they have been for thousands of years.”

In an interview, he said Christians and Jews might claim discoveries of relics, and that Muslims would be angered if ancient symbols of other religions went on show. “How can crosses be displayed when Islam doesn’t recognize that Christ was crucified?” said al-Nujaimi. “If we display them, it’s as if we recognize the crucifixion.”

In the past, Saudi authorities restricted foreign archaeologists to giving technical help to Saudi teams. Starting in 2000, they began a gradual process of easing up that culminated last year with American, European and Saudi teams launching significant excavations on sites that have long gone lightly explored, if at all.

At the same time, authorities are gradually trying to acquaint the Saudi public with the idea of exploring the past, in part to eventually develop tourism. After years of being closed off, 2,000-year-old Madain Saleh is Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and is open to tourists. State media now occasionally mention discoveries as well as the kingdom’s little known antiquities museums.

“It’s already a big change,” said Christian Robin, a leading French archaeologist and a member of the College de France. He is working in the southwestern region of Najran, mentioned in the Bible by the name Raamah and once a center of Jewish and Christian kingdoms.

No Christian artifacts have been found in Najran, he said.

Spearheading the change is the royal family’s Prince Sultan bin Salman, who was the first Saudi in space when he flew on the U.S. space shuttle Discovery in 1985. He is now secretary general of the governmental Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

Dhaifallah Altalhi, head of the commission’s research center at the governmental Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, said there are 4,000 recorded sites of different periods and types, and most of the excavations are on pre-Islamic sites.

“We treat all our sites equally,” said Altalhi. “This is part of the history and culture of the country and must be protected and developed.” He said archaeologists are free to explore and discuss their findings in academic venues.

Still, archaeologists are cautious. Several declined to comment to The Associated Press on their work in the kingdom.

The Arabian Peninsula is rich, nearly untouched territory for archaeologists. In pre-Islamic times it was dotted with small kingdoms and crisscrossed by caravan routes to the Mediterranean. Ancient Arab peoples — Nabateans, Lihyans, Thamud — interacted with Assyrians and Babylonians, Romans and Greeks.

Much about them is unknown.

Najran, discovered in the 1950s, was invaded nearly a century before Muhammad’s birth by Dhu Nawas, a ruler of the Himyar kingdom in neighboring Yemen. A convert to Judaism, he massacred Christian tribes, leaving triumphant inscriptions carved on boulders.

At nearby Jurash, a previously untouched site in the mountains overlooking the Red Sea, a team led by David Graf of the University of Miami is uncovering a city that dates at least to 500 B.C. The dig could fill out knowledge of the incense routes running through the area and the interactions of the region’s kingdoms over a 1,000-year span.

And a French-Saudi expedition is doing the most extensive excavation in decades at Madain Saleh. The city, also known as al-Hijr, features more than 130 tombs carved into mountainsides. Some 450 miles from Petra, it is thought to mark the southern extent of the Nabatean kingdom.

In a significant 2000 find, Altalhi unearthed a Latin dedication of a restored city wall at Madain Saleh which honored the second century Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

So far, there has been no known friction with conservatives over the new excavations, in part because they are in the early stages, are not much discussed in Saudi Arabia, and haven’t produced any announcements of overtly Christian or Jewish finds.

But the call to keep the land purged of other religions runs deep among many Saudis. Even though Madain Saleh site is open for tourism, many Saudis refuse to visit on religious grounds because the Quran says God destroyed it for its sins.

Excavations sometimes meet opposition from local residents who fear their region will become known as “Christian” or “Jewish.” And Islam being an iconoclastic religion, hard-liners have been known to raze even ancient Islamic sites to ensure that they do not become objects of veneration.

Saudi museums display few non-Islamic artifacts.

Riyadh’s National Museum shows small pre-Islamic statues, a golden mask and a large model of a pagan temple. In some display cases, female figurines are listed, but not present — likely a nod to the kingdom’s ban on depictions of the female form.

A tiny exhibition at the King Saud University in Riyadh displays small nude statues of Hercules and Apollo in bronze, a startling sight in a country where nakedness in art is highly taboo.

In 1986, picnickers accidentally discovered an ancient church in the eastern region of Jubeil. Pictures of the simple stone building show crosses in the door frame.

It is fenced off — for its protection, authorities say — and archaeologists are barred from examining it.

Faisal al-Zamil, a Saudi businessman and amateur archaeologist, says he has visited the church several times.

He recalls offering a Saudi newspaper an article about the site and being turned down by an editor.

“He was shocked,” al-Zamil said. “He said he could not publish the piece.”

About Eeyore

Canadian artist and counter-jihad and freedom of speech activist as well as devout Schrödinger's catholic

12 Replies to “In light of recent events in Egypt, I think this has become a very important article.”

  1. The giant bhudda statues weren’t the first pre islamic artifacts to be destroyed by the Taliban.

    When they overran the afgani capital one of the first things they did was smash all the pre islamic artifacts in the cities museum.

    Just a few days ago protestors in egypt went into a musum and beheaded some mummys.

    I wonder when the spinx’s nose came off. Is there a record of it’s appearance pre islamic rule of Egypt?

  2. Update to last comment. A 16th century arab historian wrote that a 14th century shiek, Muhammad (what a suprise) Sa’im al-Dahr, destroyed the nose with explosives. Reasons were that either he thought its life like apearance was offensive to Islam or because local peasants were giving offerings to it as it was associated with the flood cycle of the nile OR local women were leaving offerings in hopes of aiding their fertility.

    Or maybe it had a cold and he was using some of that famous islamic science we keep hearing about to clear its sinuses.

    Not suprisingly arabs seem to prefer blaming it on Napoleon but there are images of it without its nose from long before Napoleon went to Egypt. What is surprising is that arabs also say it came off because THE JEWS hit it with artillary fire in 1956. What a great education system they must have.

  3. I love how muslims deny that muslims burned the Library of Alexandria and all of the scrolls…

    they say… “But that was only one report, you can’t take that seriously”

    LOL… muslims..

  4. Most Archeologists would go crazy if offered a chance to search for lost cities in Arabia, I remember reading(back in the 90s) about how satellite pictures show a lost city in the empty quarter, at the time the majority opinion is that it was the home city of the Queen of Sheba.

  5. Islam is a replacement theology/ideology.

    It replaces whatever came before it, even to the destruction of all evidence of the histories of the lands it conquers.

    Until Egypt became Muslim, the pyramids were covered in painted limestone facings that explained how they were built, who built them and why. One of the many Egyptian sultans removed the limestone for his palaces. I believe it was during the 13th century.

    Islam is exactly like Nazism. The Nazis tried to eradicate all signs that Jews lived in Germany and the lebensraum by killing millions of them and destroying thousands of synagogues, schools, homes and businesses.

    Islam was a preexisting model for such atrocities, predating the Nazis by over 1,000 years.

    As evidenced by the massacres of Copts and other Christians in Pakistan and Egypt and Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in parts of Asia, Muslims are still at it.

    And never believe that the Saudis allow true scholarship about the archeology of their land.

    Whatever does not agree with the koran is suppressed even at the level of international scholarship. The Arabs have a tight hold on all scholarship about their land and Islam and will never, ever admit that they are wrong.

  6. You got that right, if the Saudi’s allowed free access to their nation and allowed true scholars to study much of forgotten history would be revealed, but the Saudi’s will never allow this because it would show that Islam destroy people and culture instead of helping them.

  7. you guys are bunch of paranoid, bigoted Christians who hate Islam out of ignorance. Since Christianity can not defend the false belief in Trinity and other hideous Christian dogmatic lies, they resort to bashing Islam since Islam presents the sane and wise dogmas.

    I have always believed that in order to win converts ( or preventing Christians from leaving Christianity), they have to rely on cheap tricks: lying about Islam, misrepresenting Muslims, presenting everything Islamic in negative light.

    Saudis are right about their country. It is their land. No one has any right to butt in and commercialize the country. I don’t give a fuck about your “International scholarshps” by those who are fallible. God’s command rule supreme. We SHOULD not GLORIFY those who disobeyed God and spread mischiefs in the land. Their culture should not be glorified. Only those excavations should take place that prove Quran right. The exploration of People of Aad, Irum, etc should be done to prove Quran.

    I don’t believe that Muslims destroyed libraries. That is nothing but a stark lie.

  8. yet oddly, you advocate the destruction of factual evidence right before you claim that its a lie Muslims destroyed libraries. You contradict yourself so fast I suspect you are Muslim. You only want exploration done that ‘proves’ koran true, and consider any factual evidence that it is not to be heresy. This makes you a very dangerous kind of primitive.

    Please move to a Muslim land like Pakistan or England and stay there where you can’t infect anyone with a working mind. Thank you Sultan.

  9. Other non-moslems are also capable nasty mischief but moslems had been known to cause the most nasty mischiefs and spread mischiefs with their endless abusive irrationality, even with their godly thing. Saudis or any other horrible asian or middle east countries have no right to butt in to western land to spread their horrible mischiefs. Just typical of moslems to display such extreme selfish attitude and extreme nasty arrogance of their nasty islamic culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*