Poverty and Poor Education Threaten Yemen’s Antiquities

Researcher in antiquities and history and founder of the National Museum, Mr. Ahmed Ali Moharram, believes that poverty, illiteracy and low levels of education are major factors for the despoilment of Yemeni antiquities.

In a lecture in the Yemeni Center for Historic Studies and Strategies for the Future, Manarat, on the current status of Yemeni antiquities, he said that the antiquities all over the country are in a critical situation because tools, digging machines, and treasure-seekers have destroyed and stolen what has been kept under the ground for more than three thousand years.

“Yemeni antiquities are spread all over Yemen. They are almost in every single square kilometer, and they have been sold in markets for the last forty years.

“Over the centuries, past and present, Yemeni antiquities have been ruined, demolished and burned. In the past, destruction of these antiquities was due to ancient conquests and wars, which are documented in inscriptions, and also by the need for construction materials that include pillars that were very necessary for the building of mosques, which can only be replaced with huge pieces of wood that do not last long.

“You can see these pillars in most main mosques of the Old City of Sana’a, including the Grand Mosque.

“The need for hewn stones for constructing castles and government buildings and homes has contributed to the destruction of our antiquities. The whole village of Bait al-Ashwal, the village of Zafar, Yarim, Haddat Ghulais and other communities were built with stones from Zafar.”

He pointed out that throughout Islamic history there had been a belief in destroying al-Aadyat (“ancient antiquities”). He continued, “during our visit to the archeological sites in the beginning of the seventies, we saw some youth from neighboring villages hold any antiquity of the ruins of remaining decorated buildings and throwing them to the ground for the purpose of destroying them because, according to them, these antiquities belong to the Aadyat (also meaning “ancient times”).”

He said that the antiquities do not only include construction landmarks. “There are pre-historic sites where only a few rocks with certain shapes remain, such as the site in Masna’at Mariah west of Dhamar, the site of Mawza’ah in Khawlan al-Tiyal, and in Shabwah and Lahj and other provinces. These relics have great value for the study of the era they represent but, fortunately, they do not have any material value.”

He called on everyone to spread awareness on the necessity to preserve antiquities.


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