24 December 2014

al-Aswad Lion Tombs

Between the 8th and 4th centuries BCE, large sections of the Arabian population transformed into civilized societies dependent on agriculture and the caravan trade. Flourishing cities arose along the northern caravan routes, such as Dedan. The oasis of al-Ula, which was known as Dedan, was the capital of the Lihyanite kingdom. The second half of the first millennium BCE witnessed competition over control of the caravan trade between the Lihyanites and Tayma. The Lihyanites, whose kingdom lasted from the sixth to the third centuries BCE, left inscriptions, temples and works of art, which bear witness to their achievements. Some monuments at al-Ula were created by merchants from Ma’in who came from southern Arabia for trade, and had carved their tombs in the rock faces overlooking al- Ula, adorning the most beautiful of them with carvings of lions. Located a short distance north-east of al-Ula, on the cliffs within the valley is an area known as al-Khuraiba, where a number of tombs can be found, evidence of a settlement in al-Ula, 2600 years ago originally named Dedan. They are known as al-Aswad Tombs and were carved around the 6th century BC by the Lihyanites, who created the Kingdom of Lihyan, which dominated the area during the period between the 6th and 2nd century B.C. These people inhabited the oasis and created the powerful Kingdom of Dedan. The numerous tombs are mostly plain burial chambers carved into the rock, but two of them have lion sculptures above them (eyes can be seen with the cave as a mouth. Pottery shreds of different types and forms are widespread in the site area and stone altars, incense burners, stone and statues with Lihyanite inscriptions have been found. There is also a large number of tombs, each is a room containing a number of graves or simply a single shaft for one person. Some of the tombs have inscription bearing the name of the owner. 

Photo by Julianna Babbington (age 6)