|19 January 2008
Newly discovered ancient coffin destroyed in Yemen
The excavation operations at al-Asibia area of Ibb province (Yemen) have revealed a stone grave and bronze coffin in a marble-walled room dating back to the Himyarite period (850 BCE-525 CE). The discovery was made at Jabal Esam eastern of Raidan Fort which is considered as an extension to Dhafar city the capital of Sheba and Dhu Raidan Ancient Kingdom, director general of the antiques office at Ibb province Khalid al-Ansi was quoted as saying. The characteristics of the coffin indicate to a royal one belongs to a king from the Sheba kingdom, al-Ansi said, noting that it is one of the most important discoveries in the Arab Peninsula.
However, locals expressed that they found the grave and it is their right to keep the site for themselves, noting that the contents inside the grave would be taken by them as well. Government security forces arrived on the scene when they heard about the discovery and placed a heavy guard around the site to keep it safe and undisturbed. "Locals claim that they do not trust the government and are not sure that the antiques will be in a safe place or not. That is why they want it for themselves," said Abud Al-Rahman Jar Allah, Museums Deputy in the Antiquities General Assembly. He explained that it is routine in Yemen for people to come and try to get a share of the wealth whenever they hear about anything related to antiques. He added that it is very important to understand that these historic places and artifacts belong to the government, not to locals, who he said must not be careless about their own history.
According to Jar Allah, a special Yemeni archeological team of experts started working on the site, including two experts in ancient graves and digging and two experts specialized in reparation and mineralogy. In addition, Al-Werafi said that a German team will come to the site to assist the Yemenis. Al-Werafi also mentioned that experts were still excavating the site in search of undiscovered artifacts and any additional information, as no precise knowledge about the grave has been found yet. Moreover, he said the coffin will be moved to Ibb museum once experts are done with it.
Unfortunately, in the early morning on January 16th, unknown persons devastated the ancient bronze coffin and stole another one completely. The director general of Antiques and Cultural Properties Protection in the General Authority for Antiquities and Museums Hesham al-Thawr held the director general of the security office in the al-Saddah district responsible for the damage. Al-Thawr said that the security official has ordered the military patrols, which have been guarding the area for five days, to leave the location mentioning no reasons for such action that gave those devastators a chance to do their crime.
Sources: Saba News (14 and 17 January 2008), Yemen Times (16 January 2008)
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