JEDDAH: The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) announced that it has successfully retrieved more than 52,000 artefacts from inside and outside the country as part of the National Project for Digital Recording of Antiquities, which follows international standards for archaeological recording and archiving.
Director-General of Archiving and Protecting Antiquities at the SCTH, Naif Al-Qannour, said: “The new digital recording project stores detailed information and reports about 32,000 artefacts retrieved from outside the Kingdom and 20,000 returned by citizens to the SCTH since Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of SCTH, launched the campaign to retrieve national artefacts in 2011.”
“Some artefacts found their way outside Saudi Arabia through foreign travelers who moved them to other countries.” Al-Qannour continued, “One of the most famous artefacts is the Tayma Stone, which was discovered by Charles Huber and later on displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris.”
He also explained that many employees of foreign companies, especially those who work in the oil industry, visited many parts of Saudi Arabia to study their geology and natural manifestations, collected the artefacts they found and took them to national museums at their home countries.
“Robbers of archaeological sites sometimes dig for archaeological treasures and achieve fast financial gains,” Al-Qannour said, “By doing so, they are destroying important archaeological evidence found in these sites, be it on land or in the sea.”
Al-Qannour stated that the SCTH will continue to work on retrieving and protecting artefacts and has released a red list of artefacts stolen from their sites inside Saudi Arabia and information about them in order to make them easier to identify. The SCTH has also announced handing financial rewards to those who return artefacts or report their loss or theft.
In 2011, Prince Sultan launched a campaign for retrieving national artefacts, including media and cultural programs and initiatives that aim to enlighten and inform citizens about the value of artefacts and the importance of returning them to the SCTH.
Recently, the SCTH released a list of 140 names of citizens who returned artefacts, reported archaeological sites or cooperated with the SCTH in protecting the country’s cultural heritage between 2013 and 2017 in order to honor them during the First Antiquities Forum, which will be launched under the patronage of King Salman, on Nov. 7 at the National Museum in Riyadh.