Introduction


The exhibition “Roads of Arabia” centres on archaeological material found in oases of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. During the past decades excavations and surveys conducted by Saudi universities and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities in collaboration with international colleagues have made exciting discoveries along the historic trade routes and pilgrim roads. The impressive finds shown here are assigned chronologically according to sites where they were found. Inspired by the landscape of Saudi Arabia, they are staged here in an abstract rocky countryside.


The exhibition begins with the oldest prehistoric periods and the first urban cultures. The domestication of the dromedary more than 3000 years ago made it possible to carry on trade over vast stretches of the Arabian Peninsula. The demand for frankincense from southern Arabia led to an upsurge in caravan trade and oasis cities, particularly as of the 8th century BC. When the cultic use of frankincense decreased in Late Antiquity, the once important trade route, the “Incense Road”, lost its prominence.
Nonetheless, with the emergence of Islam since the early 7th century, caravan routes experienced renewed florescence. Mecca, the sphere of Mohammad’s works, became a religious centre and the goal of annual pilgrimage (the hajj). People from different countries as well as their material goods journeyed to the Arabian Peninsula via pilgrim roads, and after 1907 with the famous Mecca-Railway too. The exhibition’s travels in time end with the founding of the present-day state of Saudi Arabia in the year 1932.

Research projects done by the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Zentrum Moderner Orient and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities are presented supplementary as international scientific cooperation of Berlin institutions.