‘Only SCTA can announce KSA excavation findings’

A photo released by the SCTA on Monday shows some of the stelae found in the Kingdom with Arabic inscriptions.

A photo released by the SCTA on Monday shows some of the stelae found in the Kingdom with Arabic inscriptions.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development had no right to announce the result of excavations taking place in the Kingdom, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) announced Monday.

“The SCTA is the sole authority to make such announcements,” said Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Ghabban, vice president of SCTA for antiquities and museums. He was referring to a French Ministry announcement on the discovery of the oldest Arabic inscriptions in the southern Saudi region of Najran. The findings were the result of excavations carried out by a Saudi-French joint archaeological team.

“This discovery and many other similar discoveries in the Kingdom’s northwest indicate the most ancient use of the Arabic alphabet,” he said.

“This discovery is in the advanced stages of scientific verification before being announced to the media by SCTA, according to the convention that regulates Saudi and international joint scientific missions,” Al-Ghabban said.

The SCTA is the only body authorized, on the basis of this international convention, to announce the archaeological discoveries after finalizing the scientific studies, he said, adding that it was a practice followed globally.

Al-Ghabban further disclosed that there are more than 30 joint scientific teams who carry out excavation work on several archaeological sites across the Kingdom in accordance with scientific administration protocols and under the full supervision of the SCTA.

He added that SCTA is the authorized entity to announce the scientifically verified discoveries, as it has been doing it over the past years. “We will announce the recent discovery about the emergence and evolution of the Arabic alphabet once the testing and scientific stages are completed.”

According to the French Ministry report, epigrapher Frédéric Imbert, a professor at the University of Aix-Marseille, found the Nabatean Arabic inscription about 100 km north of Najran near the Yemeni border. “The first thing that makes this find significant is that it is a mixed text, known as Nabatean Arabic, the first stage of Arabic writing,” he said. This script had previously only ever been seen north of Hejaz, in the Sinai and in the Levant.

The second is the fact that these inscriptions are dated. The period indicated corresponds to the years 469-470 AD. This is the oldest form of Arabic writing known to date, which represents the “missing link” between Nabatean and Arabic writing, said a spokesman from the ministry.


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