This haunting anthropomorphic stele is among the earliest known works of art from the Arabian Peninsula and dates back to some six thousand years ago. Found near Ha’il in the north, it was probably associated with religious or burial practices. The figure's distinctive belted robe and double-bladed sword may have been unique to this region.More Info
Many of the incense routes to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean region passed through northwestern Arabia. One of several stations along the route was Tayma, the most ancient oasis in Arabia. Tayma's wealth and reputation was such that in the sixth century BCE, the Babylonian king Nabonidus stayed there for ten years.
Situated in the lush oasis of al-Ula, Dedan provided shelter and sustenance for caravans from the sixth to the first century BCE. Even verses in the Old Testament praise its fresh waters. The Lihyanites, who ruled the area during this period, developed a complex and original artistic tradition, including impressive monumental sculptures that are seen for the first time in this exhibition.
In the first century BCE, the Lihyanites lost power to the Nabataeans, whose kingdom centered on Petra in southern Jordan. The Nabataeans actively participated in the incense trade and made their fortune by controlling trade with the Roman Empire. Like Petra, Mada’in Saleh in northwestern Arabia features many tombs that are carved into the surrounding sandstone cliffs, creating a spectacular vista in the desert.