• Keywords: Saudi Arabia, Cultural Landscape, Rock-art, rupestre, paintings, engravings, petroglyphs, Bi'r Hima, Najran, Okhdood.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

Bi’r Hima Rock-art and Najran area Cultural Landscape is not in any list.

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape
1

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

The region around the modern city of Najran, in southwest Saudi Arabia, has much to offer in terms of rock art research. The settlement of Najran was an important center along the Incense Route. Caravans originating at the source in Yemen passed through Najran before turning northward. The western branch was destined for Egypt, the Levant, Greece and Rome, while the eastern branch headed for Mesopotamia. The peak of the incense trade was between 800 BCE-600 CE. The ancient citadel of al Okhdood, located at the southwestern edge of the modern city of Najran, was constructed in the 7th-6th century BCE. A depiction of a heavily built horse similar in form to the Nisean breed of the 6th century BCE used by Persians, and a serpeant are etched into one of the large building blocks along the avenue entering the citadel. Bi’r Hima, historically known for its famous wells, is located about 30 km northeast of Najran. It is a complex that consists in rupestre rock art and archaeological settlements. in The labyrinth of wadis and jebels is home to hundreds of examples of petroglyphs, including some large, complex panels compiled of images from multiple periods. Battle scenes with cavalrymen and infantrymen wielding various weapons are most prevalent. Ostriches, domestic cattle, camels, and date palms are also common. Oversized human figures are known at some localities in the Bi’r Hima/Najran region, as well as numerous “Alliah or Al-Lat goddesses” shown adjacent to battle scenes. The oldest images at Bir Hima consist of large domestic cattle, some of which are decorated with stripes and other geometric designs. The breed depicted is very similar to that shown in Egyptian art, with medium to long lyre-shaped horns that point upward, and a small hump at the shoulders. Images of domestic fat-tailed sheep can be found in this area, although they are not very common. The ostriches in the Bi’r Hima rock art are the most lifelike of all those known in Saudi Arabia, with fluffy plumage and realistic postures. These appear to be about as old as the cattle, neither of which is closely associated with contemporaneous writing. Camels are frequently shown, some with a patina indicating that they are relatively old, perhaps similar to the cattle in age, and others that look much more recent. At Aa’bar Harema, a camel in a late battle scene is shown with a saddle with stirrups or tassels. The hundreds, if not thousands of petroglyphs in the region are dominated by images of mounted cavalrymen on horses that are highly stylized, but could be of the Arabian breed. The cavalrymen are armed with long lances, swords, saifs (scimitars) and khanjars (curved knives), worn at the waist. Some are also fitted with what appear to be helmets and cuirasses. Dots around the bodies of a few horses may represent equine armour, as well. Camel corpsmen and infantrymen are also shown wielding weapons. In addition to complex battle scenes, there are hundreds of examples of female images, known locally as Al-Lat goddesses, after the most important pre-Islamic goddess, although there is no proof of a connection. These are normally closely associated with cavalry and infantrymen, but also clearly appear to have served a function in fertility rites. The women are shown facing forward with braids down over their faces and their arms raised in the air, bent at the elbow. The site is not in any list, but Med-O-Med has considered appropiate to consider it as a Cultural Landscape taking into account its natural and cultural heritage, and the same criteria that UNESCO (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008) followed to classify The Gobustan Rock Art, in Azerbaijan, as a Cultural Landscape.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Najran, Bi’r Hima.
  • Current denomination Najran, Bi’r Hima.
  • Original denomination Najran, Bi’r Hima.
  • Popular denomination Najran, Bi’r Hima.
  • Address: Bi’r Hima, Najran Province, Saudi Arabia.
  • Geographical coordinates: 17°29′30″N 44°7′56″E
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: The site is in the region around the modern city of Najran, in southwest Saudi Arabia. Bi’r Hima, historically known for its famous wells, is located about 30 km northeast of Najran.
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Bir Hima Rock-art and Najran area Cultural Landscape (SAUDI ARABIA)

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Bir Hima Rock-art and Najran area Cultural Landscape (SAUDI ARABIA) 17.491667, 44.132222 Bir Hima Rock-art and Najran area Cultural Landscape (SAUDI ARABIA) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Department of Antiquities, Saudi Arabia.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Saudi Arabian Government.

4. HISTORY

The settlement of Najran was an important center along the Incense Route. Caravans originating at the source in Yemen passed through Najran before turning northward. The western branch was destined for Egypt, the Levant, Greece and Rome, while the eastern branch headed for Mesopotamia. The peak of the incense trade was between 800 BCE-600 CE. The ancient citadel of al Okhdood, located at the southwestern edge of the modern city of Najran, was constructed in the 7th-6th century BCE. A depiction of a heavily built horse similar in form to the Nisean breed of the 6th century BCE used by Persians, and a serpeant are etched into one of the large building blocks along the avenue entering the citadel. Ancient history of human occupation of Bir Hima is credited to its resources of wild life, water and the lime stone terrain. Saudi Arabia’s rock art, which has found appreciation in recent years, is considered among the richest in the world along with other examples found in Australia, India and South Africa. The area was explored by the Philby-Ryckmans-Lippen expedition of 1951 and published by E. Anati (1969–72). It was then noted that the images on the rocks were inscribed with inset into the sandstone formation, dated 300–200 BC. Its rich heritage of rock petroglyphs caught the attention of Saudi Arabia’s Department of Antiquities only after 1976 when Jubba and other sites were investigated. One of the expedition members investigating this art form found a site west of the ancient wells of Bir Hima where he recorded 250 images.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Rural
  • Geography: High Mountain
  • Site topography: Natural
Water wells.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

Bir Hima is a rock art site in Najran province, in southwest Saudi Arabia. An ancient Palaeolithic and Neolithic site, the Bir Hima Complex covers the time period of 2500–1000 BC. Bir Hima contains numerous troughs whose type is similar from North Arabia to Yemen.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    Bir Hima, which is an ancient Palaeolithic and Neolithic site, lies north of Najran, categorized as a Lower Palaeolithic or Oldowan site. Apart from petroglyphs, carving tools used for this art work (in the form of chopper or pebble tools) were also found here, made of such materials as quartzite, andesite and flint. The images appear to have been inscribed with Bronze. The petroglyphs noted, when initially found in the 1950s, consisted of daggers and swords, bows with arrows tipped with transverse arrowheads, sickle swords and throw-sticks. These depictions were interpreted as symbolic of spiritual animism. Bir Hima, as part of Najran, is a treasure trove of petroglyphs, eclipsed only by those found in the Jubba region. Here, 100 sites have been identified. In the Najran area, as many as 6,400 human and animal illustrations, which include more than 1,800 camels and 1,300 human depictions, have been recorded.[6] At this important rock art site, apart from depictions of humans, giraffes and other animals, the sixth century inscriptions of Dhu Nuwas, a Himyarite King who occupied Najran, are also recorded. A number of articulated camel fragments were excavated at site 217-44. While its engravings are probably much earlier than those of Hunters Palette, the Bir Hima warrior, armed with bow, is almost identical to the men on the Hunters Palette. The settlement of Najran was an important center along the Incense Route. Caravans originating at the source in Yemen passed through Najran before turning northward. The ancient citadel of al Okhdood, located at the southwestern edge of the modern city of Najran, was constructed in the 7th-6th century BCE. A depiction of a heavily built horse similar in form to the Nisean breed of the 6th century BCE used by Persians, and a serpeant are etched into one of the large building blocks along the avenue entering the citadel.

  • Historical routes:

    The settlement of Najran was an important center along the Incense Route. Caravans originating at the source in Yemen passed through Najran before turning northward. The western branch was destined for Egypt, the Levant, Greece and Rome, while the eastern branch headed for Mesopotamia. The peak of the incense trade was between 800 BCE-600 CE.

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: The rock art of Bir Hima, is an eloquent expression of relationships between humans and the environment, with a lot of drawings and engravings testifying to climate changes, wildlife migrations, and the evolution of humankind on the region.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

5.3. Quality

Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-Paintings and engravings of Bir Hima. -The ancient settlement of Najran. -The ancient citadel of al Okhdood.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Archaeological
The main tangible value of "Bi’r Hima Rock-art and Najran area Cultural Landscape" is archaeological. Bir Hima, which is an ancient Palaeolithic and Neolithic site, lies north of Najran, categorized as a Lower Palaeolithic or Oldowan site. Apart from petroglyphs, carving tools used for this art work (in the form of chopper or pebble tools) were also found here, made of such materials as quartzite, andesite and flint. They are also interesting the ancient settlement of Najran and the ancient citadel of al Okhdood ( 7th-6th century BCE).

Intangible

  • Historical
  • Mythical
The main intangible value of "Bi’r Hima Rock-art and Najran area Cultural Landscape" are: -Historical: The images on the rocks were inscribed with inset into the sandstone formation, dated 300–200 BC. The settlement of Najran was an important center along the Incense Route, and the ancient citadel of al Okhdood, constructed in the 7th-6th century BCE. -Mythical: Because most rock art belonged to cultures that disappeared long ago, it is now difficult however to understand why the artists painted and engraved, or what their art meant to them. Many researchers believe that the art had religious implications, expressing the art's conceptions of reality and their position in the world around them.
Authenticity:
Bir Hima is an ancient Palaeolithic and Neolithic site. The ancient citadel of al Okhdood was constructed in the 7th-6th century BCE.
Universality:
Med-O-Med describes the universality of the site according to the UNESCO criteria: i) The impressive array of paintings and rock engravings of various periods gives world recognition to the property. iii) The rock art images cover a period of about 10,000 years. With the archaeological remains, they testify in a particularly lively manner to climate changes, changes in fauna and flora, and particularly to possibilities provided for farming and pastoral life linked to impregnable defensive sites during certain prehistoric periods.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

Bi’r Hima Rock-art and Najran area Cultural Landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Morocco which is included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://saudi-archaeology.com/sites/bir-hima/ -Harrigan, P. et al (2002). Art Rocks in Saudi Arabia. -Holl, A. (2004). Saharan Rock Art, Archaeology of Tassilian Pastoralist Icongraphy. -Ember, M. et al. (2002). Encyclopedia of Prehistory. 8 : South and Southwest Asia (1 ed.). Springer. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-306-46262-7. -Nayeem, M. A. (2000). The rock art of Arabia: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, the Emirates & Yemen. Hyderabad Publishers. p. 231. ISBN 978-81-85492-09-4. Retrieved 17 April 2011. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara, Italy.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.