Complexities and history of the Arabian Peninsula

Civilization in the area of Saudi Arabia dates back thousands of years.

Bronze head of a man found at Qaryat al-Faw

WASHINGTON—There’s more to Saudi Arabia than sand, oil and camels.

The proof is at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., with the Roads of Arabia exhibit, on display until Feb. 23.

The exhibit has more than 300 objects drawn from Saudi institutions showing the influences of their neighbours on Arabian art. It draws on treasures discovered over the last 40 years at 10 sites on the Arabian Peninsula.

Ali al-Ghabban, vice-president of Antiquities and Museums in Saudi Arabia, says that it shows civilization in the area dated back thousands of years: “We are not a closed civilization.”

The exhibit is broken into three parts. Part one covers the history starting with the Neolithic human-like sandstone stele and flaked stone axes going back to the 4th millennium BCE.

Displayed in one of several large-sized photographs is an example of Neolithic rock art dating back several millennia. Ghabban points out that Arabia “at that period wasn’t desert. The weather was different, having all these types of animals.” There were lions, ostriches, cattle, camels and humans on the hunt.

At the time what made Saudi Arabia important were the networks of oases for the caravans crossing the desert sand. “Each station was a petro (gasoline) station,” says Ghabban, “We controlled the international trade. Arabia is a gift of its location as Egypt is the gift of Nile. We controlled the trade between east and west.”

What was shipped? Spices, like frankincense and myrrh, and other luxury objects. Arab sculptures reflected Egyptian dynastic styling and bronze heads showed the influence on ancient Rome and Greece.

Then came Islam in the 7th century, and the trade routes changed. Saudi Arabia no longer was a place to cross but a destination as the pilgrimage roads converged on Mecca. Artistic influence became applied to script instead of human representation. This is the second part of the exhibit.

The last part covers the founding of modern Saudi Arabia in 1932 by the late King Abdul-Aziz, known as Ibn Saud.

The exhibit was first shown in Paris after the Saudi government and the Louvre combined forces. It traveled to Barcelona, Russia’s Hermitage and Berlin, with more than 1.5 million visitors.

The Sackler Gallery is the first stop for “Roads of Arabia.” It will travel to Pittsburgh, Houston and San Francisco, with other museums still under discussion.

If you go:

Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. through Feb. 23, 2013.

For more go online to http://www.gosmithsonian.com/museums/arthur-m-sackler-gallery/.

Tish Wells is a Capital News contributor.

Just Posted

Mount Eneas wildfire continues to burn at 200 hectares

Peachland - Evacuation orders have been issued for Brent Road and Highway 97 South properties

UPDATED: Okanagan Mountain Park fire forces evacuation alert

Properties from 6006 to 8888 Lakeshore Road are being placed on an evacuation alert

Complete list of B.C. Interior wildfire coverage

Up-to-date information on blazes happening the Kamloops Wildfire Centre

Carrot Mountain fire fans smoke over West Kelowna

A cluster of three fires are burning above West Kelowna

UPDATED: Highway 97 closed again due to wildfire

Motorists may use an alternate route via Highway 97C, Highway 5A and Highway 3

Breaking: More evacuation orders for Mount Eneas wildfire, south of Peachland

The BC Wildfire Service is battling a large wildfire alongside Highway 97 in Peachland.

Fire in backcountry near Keremeos reaches 400 hectares in size

Two significant fires are burning in the Lower Similkameen, smoke can be seen as far away as Osoyoos

Update: Summerland wildfire forces PIB state of emergency

More than 40 firefighters are on scene of the wildfire near Mount Conkle, just outside of Summerland.

Hockey trip fraudster receives house arrest

Man duped 16 families with Okanagan Elite Hockey Association out of over $100,000

Four wild fires still burning near Keremeos

One fire was extinguished and another reported after lightning came through area

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Installers to battle Team B.C.

Exhibition men’s fastball Saturday in Vernon

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

Most Read