Saudi Arabia’s Heritage Commission has announced the discovery of pre-Islamic artefacts at Al-Ukhdood archaeological site in the southern region of Najran — one of the country’s oldest inhabited regions, on the border with Yemen.
The find includes three ancient rings, which are equal in size and feature butterfly-shaped motifs on top. Archaeologists also dug up a bronze bull’s head, which was cherished as a symbol of strength and fertility among the pre-Islamic kingdoms of southern Arabia, such as the Sabeans, Ma’inids and Qatabanids.
There are several inscriptions, including a large granite stone detailing the life of a resident named Wahb Ail bin Maaqen, who is described as watering the gardens of his house and a nearby palace. At 48cm high and 2.3 metres long, it is the largest inscription of its kind found in the region.
The Heritage Commission team also unearthed several pottery jars of various sizes and shapes, alongside a rare sample of Attic pottery dating back to the third century BC.
Working with international experts, a group of Saudi archaeologists examined the findings, which have helped to demystify the chronological development of Al-Ukhdood over the past 2,000 years. It has also clarified Najran’s role in the transmission of culture and civilisation going back to the pre-Christian era.
Dating back 4,000 years, Najran historically served as a caravan stop for travellers passing through the southern Arabian Peninsula. Al-Ukhdood, which is mentioned in the Quran, is believed to be the oldest part of the city. As an oasis, it was a vital pit stop on the frankincense and myrrh routes, and was briefly held by the Roman prefect of Egypt Gallus around 25 BC, during his unsuccessful campaign to conquer Yemen.
Recent efforts are focused on the north-eastern part of the site, between a fort and a mosque — where archaeologists have been closely studying the site’s residential architecture.
From the foundations, which still remain, it appears that the residents laid out their homes along a central corridor, with small and medium-sized rooms running alongside. Some houses also include stores, filled with metalware, pottery with wavy edges, stone incense burners and inscriptions on the walls.