New Historical Sites Come to Light in Abyan [Archives:2001/17/Culture]

April 23 2001

Saleh Abdulbaqi
Yemen Times
Antiquities are treasures that are a remainder of the cultural heritage of a country. In Yemen, the excavating of historic sites and the antiquities are glittering evidence of the unique civilizations that Yemen witnessed once upon a time.
The Antiquities Office in Abyan was revamped in 1994 to replace a weak administration which was established in 1982. The office included two rooms and a hall and had four employees. It preserved a number of antiquities that were excavated by Russian, French and Iraqi archaeologists. These were stolen during the Civil War of 1994. Later on an ad hoc committee was formed to investigate into the disappearance of the invaluable cultural treasures. The committee included Salem Mohammed Al-Aameri, present head of the office, and Dr. Ahmad Ba Taba who was its head at that time. The committee also included an American expert and other specialists form the Aden Authority. “We got back some of the stolen antiquities and returned them to the Abyan Office while some others were taken to Sana’a,” said Al-Aameri. Today, in coordination with the Antiquities Public Authority in Sana’a, the office has recently completed the building of the National Museum of Antiquities in the city which is scheduled to be officially inaugurated in the following months.
It is a testimony to the efforts of the office that the people here have started to realize the tremendous importance of antiquities. All known historic cites have been listed and protected, awaiting excavations. During the surveys last year, a number of new sites were discovered in Zonjobar. The five-year plan prepared by the office include fencing the new as well as the old sites within its resources to block the way of urbanization on such sites. Some of these sites like Khanfar, Attaryah, etc., date back to the pre-Islamic era. However, excavations are still to be conducted to reveal the exact period of these sites. Owing to heavy rain floods some antiquities have been found in Shaqara and al-Qarow. These include amphoras, vases and women’s cosmetic tools. The two sites have been fenced and protected from floods while surveys are still carried out in theses and other sites in Khanfar and Jeaar. It is to be mentioned here that all these surveys began in 2000 in Shaqara in cooperation with a geophysical team with up-to-the-minute technology. In Shaqara the team came across an old cemetery and different pieces of antiquities including porcelain, daggers, and jewelry dating back to the pre-Islamic period. It is believed that these tools and instruments found in the cemetery used to be buried along with the dead bodies owing to the belief that they will be needed in resurrection. Excavations in a district called al-Hasalah, the first capital of Abyan also revealed coins that go back to the period of the Solaihids. The name of Al-Hasalah has so often been associated with Qana, the city seaport.
Encouraged by the support of the government, the office will resume excavations in other parts of the governorate. It is believed that many more treasures are still buried under the soil of this brown land. We also hope that archaeological experts will treat this city on par with other historic ones in the country to unveil the ancient civilization of the ancient Yemenis.