Pre-Islam Saudi Treasures Are In Louvre

A new exhibition of rare artifacts from Saudi Arabia’s ancient past has opened in the Louvre in Paris. Some of them even have never been shown abroad.

The exhibition includes Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia showcasing 300 archeological treasures found in the Gulf country, many pre-dating the birth of Islam. “Saudi Arabia has never been known for its history, and I don’t mean recent history but the procession of civilizations that have existed in Arabia,” says the Saudi Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abulaziz Al Saud. The exhibition is the result of 40 years of excavation across Saudi Arabia, with several artifacts only unearthed in the last decade. Works include funerary stelae dating as far back as 4,000 BC; huge statues of the Kings of Liyhan, an ancient kingdom in what is now Saudi. Also on show are major discoveries from the island of Tarut; gold and pearl jewelry, including a single gold glove, found in a tomb unearthed in the ancient town of Thaj.

Some of the artifacts were only discovered in the last five years and have recently been restored. Saudi has been a major trade hub since the dawn of time, and was a connecting point between the Arabian Peninsula and the rest of the world.Trade routes criss-crossed the country, the largest in the Arabian peninsula, followed later by pilgrim routes leading to Mecca and other holy sites.

Another section of the exhibition explores Saudi’s role as the cradle of Islam, displaying artifacts such as a door from the Ka’ba in Mecca, a gift from an Ottoman sultan in the 17th century.Focusing on the roads that took pilgrims to the country’s holy sites, it suggests that Saudi Arabia was specially chosen to spread the message of Islam because of its geographical position linking major civilizations.

As for the Louvre, a relationship with the largest country in the Middle East comes as part of a wider strategy to extend its cultural influence to the Gulf.

In 2007, France and Abu Dhabi signed an intergovernmental agreement to open the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the cultural district being built on Saadiyat Island. It is currently expected to open in 2013.

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