Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ancient Queen of Ibb

The Yemen Observer posted an article by Mohammed al-Kibsi back in January 2008, reporting on the discovering of an ancient tomb in Ibb.

From the article:

"Three tombs believed to date back to the Hemiriate dynasty have been discovered in the al-Usaibyah area of the al-Sadda district of Ibb last week.

The tombs housed three women, one of them believed to be a queen. Local sources from al-Sadda confirmed that golden jewels were found in the tomb, believed to be for a queen or a princess. Other jewels were found in the other two tombs. In addition, a bronze spear was found in a second tomb and a 70 centimeter sword in a third tomb.

The three tombs were found in a rocky room around five meters deep and about 3 meters wide. The room contained large pieces of alabaster, each piece around 150 cubic centimeters. The room also contained a 20 centimeter bronze belt.

The al-Usaibyah area is near the Raidan Palace, not far from the ancient city of Dhafar, the capital of the Saba and Tho Raydan kingdoms. Dr. Abdullah Ba-Wazir, head of the General Authority of Antiquities and Museums, said that the discovery in al-Ausaibyah came about after two tribes began fighting about the discovery the tombs. When local authorities intervened to resolve the conflict between the two tribes, they discovered the tomb.

Ba-Wazir revealed to the 26 September newspaper that an archeological team from Ibb governorate was sent to the area together with another team from Sana’a.

He said that they found a royal tomb, designed in a rare architectural style. Found inside the tomb was a bronze coffin containing the remains of a woman believed to be of a high political status.

Ba-Wazir explained that the site is a royal grave built in an artistic style indicating that the grave is of an important political person, presumably a woman. It may belong to the Himiriat period.

Authorities also sent a specialized archaeological team in addition to the team from Ibb. They are to do rescue excavations at the site at which the bronze coffin was found. He explained that the team treated the discovery site with great caution due to bad conditions such as high humidity and moisture making it difficult to preserve the coffin.

Ba-Wazir confirmed that the team will document all the antiques and other items discovered at the site. The coffin will be sent to the Ibb city museum for further preliminary preservation. Some scientific archaeological institutes will be contacted so their experts can inspect and determine the chronological age of the decaying body.

The authority manager explained that one of the duties of their team is to evaluate the discovery site in order to know if the site extends further in the area or whether it is isolated. He added that they will know more when they receive the report within the next two days.

Ba-Wazir warned people in the area not to do any diggings because of their negative effects on the current excavations by the authority teams. He called for them to cooperate with local authorities and security forces for the good of the public. Cooperation will result in saving the cultural heritage of this historical area and provide a suitable atmosphere for the excavation."

Now according to Yemen history, the Hemiriate or "Himyarites" had their capital at Dhafar, and used the Red Sea as a means of trade. Their culture was gradually absorbed into that of the Sabeans - though by the 1st Century BC, the whole area had been conquered by the Romans.

From "Yemen Old Splendour Tours":

"Dhofar was the seat of the Himyarite King Al-Tuba’ Abu Kareb Asaad, Known as Asaad Al –Kamil. His famous palace “ Raydan Palace”, was built there. There also stood Dhofar town. Nothing remains of the palace and the town but a few meters of walls Still, There are several antiquities showing the greatness of the Himyarites and their civilization such as the dams. Historians tell us that there were 80 dams, cisterns and a number of water reservoirs carved in rock in the green stretch of Ardh Yahsob (land of Yahsob). There are many cisterns around Dhofar mountain in addition to stone tombs on the western side of the mountain, which can be reached through the village of Dhofar. They are wide rooms connecting with each other deep in the rock by gates “openings” each room, with a platform to lay the bodies of the dead. The most important cisterns, carved in the rock, are by the road leading to Bayt Al-Ashwal. They were carved at the end of the flow gate of an ancient dam at the mouth of the wadi east of Dhofar Mountain."

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