Saudi, international team excavates secrets of Al-Ula civilizations

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A leading multinational archaeological mission embarked on a giant undertaking of a five-year long excavation of the fascinating historical and archeological secrets that lie hidden in Al-Ula, the heritage site of the ancient Dadan and Lihyan kingdoms.
Saudi, international team excavates secrets of Al-Ula civilizations
Part of the temple excavated at Dadan [Credit: Saudi Gazette]

The mission is the fruit of the partnership between the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, King Saud University, the French Agency for Al-Ula Development and the French National Center for Scientific Research (FNCSR).

Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Suhaibani, an official of the museums and exhibitions team at the Royal Commission for Al-Ula and co-supervisor of the project, and Jerome Rohmer of FNCSR said that pinpointing the real history and cause of the downfall of the Dadan Kingdom is one of the main areas that the team wanted to ascertain during the mission.
Saudi, international team excavates secrets of Al-Ula civilizations
View of the excavation site at Dadan [Credit: Saudi Gazette]




“We do know that Dadan Kingdom came to an end by the end of the sixth century BC without any strong evidence to support this, and we can only guess the reasons behind the flight of this civilization from the region.

“We aspire to learn more about the relationship between Dadanians and the Lihyans, another Arab kingdom from the region, and their relationship with the Nabataeans who arrived from the north later.”
Saudi, international team excavates secrets of Al-Ula civilizations
Tombs at Dadan [Credit: Saudi Gazette]

The Dadanian and Lihyan cultures preceded the Nabataean civilization and the Roman presence in the Arabian Peninsula, confirming the depth of the region’s history.

The excavations that are expected to continue for five years until 2024 to register the Kingdom’s history that date back to more 2700 years ago, in addition to highlighting its pivotal role in the domestic routes of ancient trade.
Saudi, international team excavates secrets of Al-Ula civilizations
Carved lions located above some tombs at Dadan [Credit: Saudi Gazette]




Al-Ula region witnessed the development of many other ancient civilizations as well.

The excavations will continue for two months annually, followed by analysis and study sessions on the new discoveries.
Saudi, international team excavates secrets of Al-Ula civilizations
Inscriptions next to one of the carved lions at Dadan [Credit: Saudi Gazette]

Based on the results of the excavation campaign launched by King Saud University since 2004, the new campaigns will focus on four main areas:

• To know the true function and dates of work of the Islamic castle near the Kingdom of Dadan, which was rebuilt by the Dadanians when they settled down in the region;
• To get a correct chronology and knowledge of stratigraphy of the Dadan temple that was unearthed;
• Further excavation in a large building recently discovered south of the Dadan temple to determine the purpose and date of its construction;
• Wider excavation campaigns at Dadan cemeteries to help archaeologists gain a better understanding of Dadan funerary practices.
Saudi, international team excavates secrets of Al-Ula civilizations
Uncovered well at Dadan [Credit: Saudi Gazette]




Al-Ula, located northwest of Saudi Arabia, was a vital crossroads along the famous incense-trading routes running from southern Arabia north into Egypt and beyond.

With oases dotting the area, it offered a much-needed respite for weary travellers, becoming a popular place to rest, commune and recharge.
Saudi, international team excavates secrets of Al-Ula civilizations
Nabatean tombs at Jabal al-Khraymat, Hegra [Credits: © Yann Arthus-Bertrand,
Hope Production]

Al-Ula was also capital of the ancient kingdoms of Dadan and Lihyan, which controlled the caravan trade.

The site of Hegra, modern Madain Salih, was the principal southern city of the Nabataean kingdom, famed for its spectacular monumental tombs.
Layer upon layer of human history and a wealth of natural wonders are waiting to be explored from dramatic rock formations and sand-swept dunes to archaeological ruins that trace the lives of the ancient cultures.

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