Egyptian Archaeologists Invited to Excavate in Saudi Arabia
Egyptian archaeologists may start exploring two ancient sites in Saudi Arabia as early as this November, announced Zahi Hawass, leading archaeologist and Egypt’s former Minister of State for Antiquities. Through earlier excavations, both archaeological sites appear to be associated with Pharaoh Ramesses III’s trade expeditions to this region, some 3,200 years ago. Previously discovered Egyptian scarabs and hieroglyphic inscriptions, containing the name of Ramesses III, attest to the pharaoh’s involvement on the Arabian Peninsula, across the Red Sea from Egypt. Archaeological surveys and excavations might provide further evidence of the interactions between pharaonic Egypt and the civilizations of ancient Arabia.
Hawass has been reluctant to provide specifics on the planned archaeological mission and its expectations. He nevertheless revealed (to Al-Monitor and other Egyptian media outlets) that one of the two sites to be explored in northwestern Saudi Arabia lies closer to the shore. The other is inland, in the region of Tayma‘—an ancient commercial and economic hub known for its frankincense, copper, gold, and silver. The Egyptian archaeological mission will additionally survey a number of possible trade routes, where they could discover more rock inscriptions attesting to Egypt’s connections with ancient Arabia. New discoveries may potentially reveal a much broader chronological frame for the Egyptian presence in the area and might expand our understanding of their motivations.
Multiple Egyptian antiquities officials expressed their excitement about the first Egyptian mission to dig for pharaonic antiquities in Saudi Arabia. Some experts even voiced their wish that the novel exploration enhance cooperation between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, not only in the area of archaeological research but also on the geopolitical stage. This news of a possible archaeological partnership comes at a time when Egypt and Saudi Arabia appear to be forging closer political and economic ties. The two countries have recently signed more than a dozen agreements and also announced plans to build a gigantic bridge over the Red Sea that would connect both countries.
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