Controversy over ancient grave site [Archives:2008/1121/Front Page]

January 17 2008

By: Hamed Thabet
IBB, Jan. 16 ) A dispute between locals in Al-Asebiah in Ibb and the Yemeni government has arisen due to the discovery of an ancient grave dating back to the Himyarite period (850 B.C. – 525 A.D.)

Locals expressed that they found the grave and it is their right to keep the site for themselves, noting that the contents inside the grave would be taken by them as well.

However, government security forces arrived on the scene when they heard about the discovery and placed a heavy guard around the site to keep it safe and undisturbed.

Abud Al-Rahman Jar Allah, Museums Deputy in the Antiquities General Assembly, visited the site and noted that experts in archeology dug around the grave site carefully and reached the bottom of the grave. An ancient coffin with sculptured stone was found.

Jar Allah stated that locals are making problems and want the grave to be given to them because it is in their area. He went on to say, “Locals claim that they do not trust the government and are not sure that the antiques will be in a safe place or not. That is why they want it for themselves.”

Jar Allah explained that it is routine in Yemen for people to come and try to get a share of the wealth whenever they hear about anything related to antiques. He added that it is very important to understand that these historic places and artifacts belong to the government, not to locals, who he said must not be careless about their own history.

However, Amin Al-Werafi, secretary-general of the local assembly in Ibb, confirmed that experts have found a sword and some gold pieces in the grave so far. Moreover, locals are highly curious and want to know every detail of the excavation. It is likely that, as the site is very ancient, the security forces will be ready for any problem that could happen.

According to Jar Allah, a special Yemeni archeological team of experts are working on the site, including two experts in ancient graves and digging and two experts specialized in reparation and mineralogy. In addition, Al-Werafi said that a German team will come to the site to assist the Yemenis.

Al-Werafi also mentioned that experts are still excavating the site in search of undiscovered artifacts and any additional information, as no precise knowledge about the grave has been found yet. Moreover, he said the coffin will be moved to Ibb museum once experts are done with it.