Saudi rock art now a UNESCO world heritage site

The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO inscribed rock art in the Hail region on the World Heritage List

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The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO inscribed rock art in the Hail region on the World Heritage List Friday afternoon.

Two other cultural sites, Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale in Italy; Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) in Jordan were also added to the list, a UNSECO press release said.


The site of rock art in the Hail region includes two components situated in a desert landscape: Jabel Umm Sinman at Jubbah and the Jabal Al-Manjor and Raat at Shuwaymis.

A lake once situated at the foot of the Umm Sinman hill range that has now disappeared used to be a source of fresh water for people and animals in the southern part of the Great Narfoud Desert.

The ancestors of today’s Arab populations have left traces of their passages in numerous petroglyphs and inscriptions on the rock face.

Jabal Al-Manjor and Raat form the rocky escarpment of a wadi now covered in sand. They show numerous representations of human and animal figures covering 10,000 years of history.

Rock Art is the fourth listing of Saudi heritage sites on the World Heritage list.

Al-Hijr Archaeological Site in Madâin Sâleh was the first to be inscribed a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2008. Then in 2010, At-Turaif District in Ad-Diriyah was added to the list followed by Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah, in 2014.

The Jabel Umm Sinman at Jubbah rock art site was visited by several European travellers and historians such as Doughty (1888), Huber (1899), Euting (1894 and 1914), Philby (1952) and Musil (1914). They wrote brief accounts of the site but did not pay any proper attention towards recording rock art and inscriptions from the area.

Scientific archaeological investigations started when the Department of Antiquities and Museums initiated a Comprehensive Archaeological Survey of the entire Kingdom in 1976. As a result, the site was mentioned by Peter Parr and McAdams in their first report in 1976 published in Atlal vol. 1 (1977). Christopher Clark a British student presented a first-hand account on the rock art of Jubbah in the Arabian Seminar in London (1979).

The rock art of Jubbah was first thoroughly investigated and recorded by the Rock Art Survey team of the Department of Antiquities and Museums in 1986 and published the report on Jubbah in Atlal vol. 11, 1987.

A brief reference of Jubbah with its dating and interpretations was given by Majeed Khan (1989) in his Ph.D thesis published by the Ministry of Education. Besides these brief reports, nothing in particular has been written on this magnificent rock art site of Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Khan and Dr. Rober Bednarik revisited the site and wrote a scientific report in “Rock Art research” in 2005.

Another comprehensive rock art, epigraphy and archaeological survey of Jubbah (Jabel Umm Sinman) and its environs was conducted by a team of Deputy Ministry of Antiquities and Museums in 2005.

Evidence has been found of four major phases of settlement at Jubbah.

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