Man of mystery discovered in Paris

·1-min read
The ‘Monumental Statue’ dates from the 5th 3rd centuries BCE (Handout)
The ‘Monumental Statue’ dates from the 5th 3rd centuries BCE (Handout)

He stands 2.3 metres high, bare chested, with a physique like an ancient Egyptian god or a Greek ‘Kouros’ statue of a young man.

But he is neither Egyptian nor Greek.

The statue is of a king or high priest from the ancient Lihyanite kingdom.

The 2.m high statue carved from sandstone is presumed to depict an ancient Lihyanite king (Handout)
The 2.m high statue carved from sandstone is presumed to depict an ancient Lihyanite king (Handout)

Their capital was at Dadan, a city in the north west of modern Saudi Arabia. Its remains, 200 metres wide and 600 metres long, are bordered by a palm tree oasis and craggy sandstone cliffs – and are filled with buried archeological treasures.

Dadan was an important oasis and trading post on the ancient silk and incense roads. It is now one of the world’s most exciting centres of research into ancient Arabia thanks to the development of the surrounding AlUla area and a surging interest in the region’s pre-Islamic civilisations.

Now European visitors will get a taste of the riches being unearthed in AlUla and Dadan. A monumental statue, one of the prize finds from the site, is being loaned to the Louvre Museum in Paris for five years.

The people of Dadan crop up frequently in the Old Testament – not surprising, as they flourished in this relatively fertile corner of Arabia for 1500 years before being overrun by the northern Nabateans, founders of the rock city of Petra.

Scholars believe they were a largely peaceful trading people. The challenge is to piece together the daily life and beliefs of the Lihyanites and their deity, Dhu-Gabat, as more and more of their kingdom is opened up to modern eyes.

More on the area and Lihyanites here.