Yemen LNG protects Yemeni historical sites [Archives:2008/1152/Local News]

May 5 2008

Hamed Thabet
SANA'A, May 1 ) For the first time in Yemen, an oil and natural gas firm has become involved in protecting Yemeni historical sites and antiquities during the company's field activities, says Abdulaziz Al-Jindari, manager of the National Museum in Sana'a, commenting on Yemen Liquefied Natural Gas Company, which is following certain measures to avoid damaging archeological sites. “Early in the planning and construction stages, Yemen LNG committed itself to conducting archeological surveys aimed at identifying, documenting and where necessary, preserving archeological sites in the areas where it operates,” said Joel Fort, general manager of Yemen LNG Company.

The company's archeological intervention follows its three levels of action to address social and environmental issues, the first of which is eliminating or mitigating potential impacts upon population, wildlife and the environment, Fort noted.

According to him, one good example of this effort within the context of archeology can seen in the fact that a pipeline was re-routed at several points to avoid damaging archeological sites. Likewise, in Balhaf in Shabwa governorate, an Islamic cemetery has been preserved within the LNG terminal site.

If the impacts can't be fully redressed, careful measures are taken to offset any damage caused. The third level of action is to leave behind a positive legacy in the vicinity of Yemen LNG operations and in Yemen as a whole, Fort said.

One good demonstration of this type of effort is the company's investment in the area of documenting and preserving important archeological and cultural heritage and discoveries, he added.

Before construction began on Yemen LNG's pipeline in Balhaf, an archeological survey was conducted along the entire 320-kilometer route from the oilfields in Marib to the natural gas liquefaction plant being built at Balhaf, Yemen LNG archeologist Mohammed Sinnah pointed out.

The aim was to identify any archeological sites requiring excavation and then inform the construction team in order to avoid damaging them.

Sinnah explained that the Yemen LNG pipeline runs through the following types of terrain: the dune desert south of Ramlat Al-Sabtayn, a flat gravel desert, a plateau in western Jawl and finally, the Hadrami costal plain.

Overall, the plant's location and pipeline route are sparsely populated with approximately 10,000 residents primarily located around the wadis, the plateau and the costal plains, Sinnah noted. In the desert and costal regions, few archeological sites were identified, mostly in the dune desert, dating predominantly to the Pleistocene and Holocene periods. These features are the remains of the wetter periods from which Yemen profited between 7,500 and 5,500 B.C., Sinnah explained.

At the same time, numerous tombs were identified in Balhaf's Wadi Jidan and initially attributed to the Bronze Age period from 3,000 to 1,200 B.C. A south Arabian site was discovered at the foot of Wadi Jidan plateau and later identified as the Hadrami site of Darbas, dating between 1,000 B.C. and 300 A.D., Sinnah noted.

According to Al-Jindari, the majority of tombs discovered on the plateau are of this type and constitute a relatively uniform group with only a few differences in form and structure. They represent examples of the so-called “circular tower tombs,” which are quite frequent in Yemen. The ground plan is circular and ranges between 3 and 10 meters in diameter. A funerary chamber made of vertical flat limestone slabs is located within such structures. A circular wall encloses the chambers, which contain buried corpses.

These circular tower tombs excavated and inventoried along the pipeline route never had doors, Al-Jindari.

Additionally, numerous antiques were found at these sites. Al-Jindari noted that these currently are displayed at the National Museum in Sana'a, but soon will be transferred and displayed at 'Ataq Museum in Shabwa governorate.