Introducing one of Sanaas greatest attractions The National Archaeological Museum [Archives:2002/07/Culture]

February 11 2002

The National Archeological Museum is located in downtown of Sanaa, near Al-Tahrir Square. Its a landmark of Yemeni historical architecture built in 1921. It was one of the places of Imam Yahya Hameed ad-Deen.
Since 1987 its been converted into the building of the National Archaeological Museum, as an alternative of its former building at Al-Shokr Palace on 26th September Street.
And now a museum reorganization is being carried out within the framework of a Dutch-Yemeni project.
A new and improved national museum should be officially inaugurated during 2003.
Whats inside
The museum is divided into several departments where antiquities and artifacts representing various periods of Yemeni history are exhibited. They cover pre-Islamic periods, in addition Islams and Yemens recent history.
In the future it will gain importance when it will house artifacts covering all periods of the Yemeni civilizations.
Presently, antiquities displayed in the museum’s halls have been gathered and carefully collected from various parts of Yemen, including Sirwah, Marib, Al-Hazm, Maeen, baraqish, Al-Sawda, Al-Bayda, Dhofar, Yarim, Ghayman, Boynoun, Naet, Anakhlah Al-Hamra, Hajjah, Hamdan, Sanaa, Dofar-Dhibin, Zabeed, Taiz, Jiblah, Al-Jowbah.
The museum contains about 18,000 artifacts, witnesses to the great Yemeni ancient civilization that existed in various historical epochs, says Dr. Abdulhaleem Nureldeen, professor of archaeology and former head of Archaeology Dept. Faculty of Arts at Sanaa University.
Artifacts include statues in stone and alabaster, a mixture of different styles and rich and realistic details, bronze plaques, stone pillars, wooden sticks with texts, blocks of rock with perfect inscriptions, other sculptures, funerary utensils, jewelry, costumes, ornaments, weapons, and coins.
The Ancient Archeology Dept.
The most important artifacts in this department are the funeral tableaus. Among them is one made of alabaster depicting a bulls head. It may have meant simply to draw attention to body.
Aesthetically beautiful is an engraving showing a woman with a rose in her right hand as if she is making herself beautiful. Another tableau shows vine leaves, under whose shadow are sitting two musicians, one playing a guitar, while the other is playing on another musical instrument.
Yet another tableau is beautifully decorated with engravings, showing a man riding on a camel and holding a spear.
There is also an engraving representing a man pulling a hunting dog.
The most enchanting and eye-catcher engraving is a one portraying some kind of a creature, half of its body as horse, the other half of some kind of sea creature. It may be meant to symbolize fertility.
The museum stalls also exhibit an alabaster tableau showing an eagle attacking two serpents. It may have symbolized the traditional conflict between good and evil.
Another engraving shows an eagle spreading its wings with two stars or roses on the top.
Ancient altars
The archaeological exhibition also contains many sacrifice altars. They were used as places for worshipping ancient Yemeni gods.
One altar ends with a bullhead at the end of a canal for blood from sacrificed animals. The bulls head most likely refers to Almaqah god, the most important god of the Sabeans.
Also on display at the exhibition are traditional incense burners, made of stone and are most beautifully decorated with engravings. Some of decorations are very unusual, showing garlands, trees, and palm trees.
Even today, many Yemeni homes keep incense burners. Incense used to be a much priced luxury commodity, which Southern Arabia supplied to Rome and Byzantium.
Just see how decorative are bunches of grapes on some of the exhibited artifacts on display at museum. They were grown in gardens here since ancient times.
Ibex heads, likely important symbol for decoration of stone friezes, are also to be seen at the exhibition at the museum.
The wonder of engraving
We are taking you only on a brief tour of the Museum, through various stalls and display halls, says Mr. Abdulaziz Hamood Al-Jindari, director general of the museum, while on a recent tour.
At present the museum is undergoing reorganization and improvement to have more space, to house and exhibit more artifacts. Utmost care is taken to preserve them. We plan to have specialized exhibitions in the future to show the development phases of writing.
Engravings depicting various designs are cut and etched on stone, or more frequently on alabaster. There is for example an inscription on a bronze plate found in Marib, which is an outstanding artifact. It tells the story of a man who presented his horse as an offering to Almaqah god.
Besides the archaeological exhibition, the Islamic archaeological area documents a varied and rich heritage. Items such as silver pendants, bracelets, armors, coins, arms in their full variety, shapes, colors and splendor. This section displays silver jewelry, belts, daggers, textiles, and there is a wedding room. Also other traditional crafts, baskets, doors are on display.
The new National Museum
The director general has been personally supervising all the ongoing development at the building.
All spaces will be utilized in best possible manner. A reception room, rest rooms, a library and souvenirs shop will also be added to its facilities, he says.
Mr. Jindari will gladly explain to visitors how archaeological collections are being preserved, how computerized system for artifacts registration and identification has been introduced, and how the reorganization of departments is proceeding.
The museum has been also sponsoring different activities, such as training courses and further training of the staff.
Source: Yemen Tourism Magazine