Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Roads of Arabia. Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia

Roads of Arabia. Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia
17 May 2011 - 4 September 2011
Top floor of the Winter Palace/ State Hermitage museum

17 May, 2011 Exhibition Roads of Arabia. Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia opened in the State Hermitage.
The exhibition (Rooms 351-356, 359) presents over three hundred of unique archeological finds, discovered in the territory of Arabia in the recent decades by archeologists of different countries and having combined in a really grand exposition for the first time. Monuments from different museums of Saudi Arabia among which there is ceramics, coins and jewelry, funeral steles, colossal statues of emperors, dishware from silver and precious jewelry, reflecting many thousands of years of Arabian history from the Paleolithic Age up to the 20th century. The exhibition includes seven sections: first five sections present exhibits of pre-Islamic time, the last two are dedicated to generation of Islam and Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina as well as to establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The main theme of the exhibition: roads, trade routes and routes of pilgrims from the ancient times and up to the present days, connecting Arabia with the outside world and its separate parts between each other. In pre-historic period one of the dispersal routes of the primitive man from the eastern Africa to Eurasia went through Arabia. In the historic age the Arabian states were growing and prospering thanks largely to contacts with great ancient civilizations sometimes being highly competitive with them in the level of development. The monuments featured in the exhibition demonstrate lively connections of Arabia with Mesopotamia and Egypt, with the countries of ancient Middle East from the Indus valley to the Mediterranean world, having existed for thousands of years, later - with antique states and then with all the countries of the Muslim world.

Trade routes intersected Arabian Peninsula in all directions: south-to north and west-to east. Caravans, carrying articles of luxury and exotic goods from Southern Arabia to the countries of the Mediterranean and West Asia had been going along them for centuries. Oases: Tayma, Madyan, Najran, Nabatene, located on the trade routes gradually became large centers of international trading: cities and kingdoms, which wealth and power were famous from different sources including Bible, developed in them.

Over ten different languages were spoken in the territory of the Arabian Peninsula in the ancient times. Constant movement along the trade routes encouraged contacts between different Arabian tribes, their cultural and religious impacts on each other; it gradually led to mixture of pantheons of languages and writing, artistic traditions. It also paved the way for rapid extension of Islam, originated in the early 7th century in the north-west of Arabia in Hejaz. In the Islamic time trade routes turned into the pilgrim’s ones, connecting the most important cities of the Muslim world with Islamic relics in Mecca and Medina. And in a thousand of years political union of the country under the reign of Al Saud Dynasty went along the same routes.

A considerable part of the exhibition items has been discovered and introduced into scientific use in the recent decades. In the beginning of the 1970s the Antiquities and Museums Department of the Saudi Arabian Committee on Tourism and Antiquities developed a program on study of archeological monuments in six regions of Saudi Arabia: Eastern, North-Eastern, Northern, Western, South-Western and Central regions. Results, obtained in the process of this program accomplishment are presented at the exhibition in the Hermitage which is the fruit of many years of efforts of archeologists and historians of Saudi Arabia and other countries of the world and a wonderful example of international scientific collaboration.

Exhibition Curator is Natalia Kozlova, Head of the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage.

For the exhibition the publishing house of the State Hermitage prepared a catalogue under scientific editorship of Mikhail Piotrovsky Director of the State Hermitage.

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