The World Heritage Committee meeting in an extraordinary session recently inscribed the Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba, Marib (Yemen) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Ancient City of Ma’rib
Copyright: © German Archaeological Institute, Orient Department
The Landmarks of the Ancient Kingdom of Saba, Marib, is a serial property comprising seven archaeological sites that bear witness to the rich Kingdom of Saba and its architectural, aesthetic and technological achievements from the 1st millennium BCE to the arrival of Islam around 630 CE.
They bear witness to the complex centralized administration of the Kingdom when it controlled much of the incense route across the Arabian Peninsula, playing a key role in the wider network of cultural exchange fostered by trade with the Mediterranean and East Africa.
Located in a semi-arid landscape of valleys, mountains and deserts, the property encompasses the remains of large urban settlements with monumental temples, ramparts and other buildings. The irrigation system of ancient Ma'rib reflects technological prowess in hydrological engineering and agriculture on a scale unparalleled in ancient South Arabia, resulting in the creation of the largest ancient man-made oasis.
The landmarks of the ancient Sabaean kingdom demonstrate a multifaceted example of an ancient South Arabian living environment that accommodates large urban settlements, and sanctuaries, impressive evidence of sophisticated agriculture, and an intricate secular administration to manage trade routes and accommodate pilgrims during specific religious seasons. The Sabaean ancient cities of Ma’rib and Sirwah testify to a complex culture and its formation in the region reflected in legacies of developed crafts and
technologies, institutionalized rule, as well as urbanism and monumental buildings founded on wealth through agriculture and incense trade between South Arabia and markets in the Mediterranean.
The Sabaeantemples of Ma’rib and Sirwah express supreme architectural values in their shape along with their monolithic standing pillars designed for religious connotations with the surrounding nature. The palatial and military architecture influenced the development of art and architecture in the entire south Arabian region. The palace of Sirwah and the Ḥarūnum, Bar’ān, and Awām temples in Ma’rib represent models of their kind in architectural design as well as building techniques.
The scientific contributions that the Sabaean civilization offered in Ma’rib with the construction of its great dam whose sluices, canals, and distributors to the two oases, and the consideration of discharging of overflowing water through al-Jufaynah dam are intricately designed and integrated within the landscape to sustain, with only two rainy seasons per year, a long-lasting irrigation system and a raison-d’être in this arid and rocky
context up until the present time.
The dam constitutes a remarkable testament to the pinnacle of hydrological engineering that is complemented by advanced knowledge of irrigation, agricultural sciences, and a complex organizational framework to create the largest artificial oasis in ancient Arabia. Most remarkable is the innovative farming system that represents a peak of water engineering achievement in antiquity.
The World Heritage Committee used an emergency procedure to inscribe this site on the List of World Heritage in Danger, due to threats of destruction from the ongoing conflict.
The List of World Heritage in Danger provides access to enhanced international assistance, both technical and financial, and helps mobilize the entire international community for the protection of sites.