Étiquettes

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Funerary mask, 1st century CE. Saudi Arabia; Thaj city, Tell al-Zayer site. Gold. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh , 2061.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.– In the shifting sands of Saudi Arabia outside the city of Thaj, archaeologists discovered the tomb of a young royal girl buried nearly 2,000 years ago, uncovering exquisite jewelry, a haunting gold mask and other objects—all made of gold. These funerary treasures are just a few of the surprising discoveries on display in the fascinating exhibition Roads of Arabia : Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , opening Oct. 24, 2014 through Jan. 18, 2015 at the Asian Art Museum.

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Head of a man, 100 BCE–200 CE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Faw site. Bronze. Courtesy of Department of Archaeology Museum, King Saud University, Riyadh, 119F13.

The Asian Art Museum will offer West Coast audiences a first look at Roads of Arabia , a traveling exhibition originating from Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 2012, featuring recent archaeological discoveries that have radically transformed our understanding of Saudi Arabia. The exhibition includes more than 200 objects, revealing the peninsula’s role as a cultural crossroads through trade and pilgrimage over thousands of years.

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Doors of the Ka’ba, 1635–1636 CE. Turkey; Ottoman dynasty (1299–1922). Gilded silver on wood. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 1355/1–2

Highlights of the exhibition include mysterious stone steles, monumental statues and finely forged bronze figures. A set of gilded doors that once graced the entrance to the Ka‘ba, Islam’s holiest sanctuary, is also featured.

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Date-shaped flask, approx. 75–125 CE. Roman Empire. Molded glass. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2240.

“Roads of Arabia offers a rare look at arts and artifacts from Saudi Arabia, with the oldest artifact dating more than a million years old,” said Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum. “This exhibition will alter your perceptions of the Arabian Peninsula’s ancient history by providing a glimpse into its largely unknown past, before the region emerged as the spiritual center of an expanding community especially important to Muslims around the world.”

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Cylindrical vessel with palm tree, approx. 2250–2000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Tarut island, al-Rufayah village. Chlorite. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 3171.

Saudi Arabia’s richly layered past begins more than a million years ago. Research has emerged that identifies the presence of early indigenous cultures across the peninsula.

The exhibition showcases stone tools that date back more than one million years—some of the oldest excavated evidence of human history.

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Chalice, 200–300 CE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Faw site. Silver, partly gilded. Courtesy of Department of Archaeology Museum, King Saud University, Riyadh, 34F16.

Another turning point in the peninsula’s ancient past is the development of incense trade roads. As early as 1200 BCE, the use of camels revolutionized Arabian commerce, enabling transport of highly valued incense. The region had a near monopoly on the cultivation and trade of the frankincense and myrrh incense that grew in the southern regions. The lucrative trade encouraged the creation of a complex network of roads that supplied the incense across the peninsula and beyond, allowing for a vibrant commercial and cultural exchange to distant civilizations. With the rise of Islam in the 7th century, the well-traveled incense roads were gradually replaced with pilgrimage roads converging on Mecca. Roads of Arabia first examines the impact of the incense trade on ancient Arabia and then showcases the development of pilgrimage trails during the early centuries of Islam that led from major cities, such as Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad, to Mecca, the spiritual heart of the new religion.

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Funerary inscription in Old Arabic, late 1st millennium BCE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Faw site. Limestone. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh , 887.

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Head of a statue, 400–100 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Tayma city. Sandstone. Courtesy of Tayma Museum, 489.

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Chopper, 2.6–1.8 million BCE. Shuwayhitiyah site; Early Lower Paleolithic period. Quartzite. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 10/19.

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Anthropomorphic stele, 4000–3000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Kaafa site, El-Maakir city. Sandstone. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 998.

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Anthromorphic stele, 4000–3000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Kaafa site, El-Maakir city. Sandstone. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyad

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Bowl, 800–900. Iraq. Earthenware painted in polychrome lustre. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2294.

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Necklace with cameo, 1st century CE. Saudi Arabia; Thaj city, Tell al-Zayer site. Gold, pearls, turquoise, and ruby. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2059

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Jar, 600–800. Iraq. Earthenware painted with glaze. Department of Archaeology Museum, King Saud University, Riyadh, SN.

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Incense Burner, 4th-1st century BCE. Qaryat al-Faw, Saudi Arabia. Limestone. H x W: 25 x 9 cm. Courtesy of National Museum, Riyadh, 2184

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Funerary stele, 500–300 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Tayma city. Sandstone. Courtesy of Tayma Museum, T/M/119.

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Incense burner, 1649. Turkey; Ottoman dynasty (1299–1922). Iron, gold, and silver. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2999.

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Part of a horse, possibly 7000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Al-Magar site, Neolithic period (approx. 8000–3000 BCE). Stone. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 3172.

Roads of Arabia loan object ELS2012.8.102

Pedestal or altar, 500–300 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Tayma city. Sandstone. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 1021

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Relief with a lion, 600–300 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Al-Ula site. Sandstone. Courtesy of Department of Archaeology Museum, King Saud University, Riyadh, 15D2.

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Statue, approx. 2500 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Tarut island. Limestone. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh,38

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Statue of a man, 400–200 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Al-Ula site. Sandstone. Courtesy of Department of Archaeology Museum, King Saud University, Riyadh, 137D4, 136D4.

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Statuette of Heracles, 1st–3rd century CE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Faw site. Bronze. Courtesy of Department of Archaeology Museum, King Saud University, Riyadh, 214F7