Chinese archaeologists to discover old gateway to Makkah

Chinese archaeologists to discover old gateway to Makkah
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BEIJING: The Chinese archaeologists joined an excavation of ancient seaside ruins known as al-Serrian in Saudi Arabia .

Located at the southwest tip of the Arabian Peninsula, al-Serrian was one of the major gateways for Hajj pilgrims to Makkah and played an important role as a trade hub leading to the north, according to a local newspaper here on Wednesday.

Five Chinese archaeologists, from the National Center of Underwater Cultural Heritage under the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, will take part in the excavation of the ruins until April 13.

According to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, six Saudi archaeologists will work alongside the Chinese experts to explore the Saudi port ruins on the Red Sea.

With the support of the governments of both countries, the team will make use of high-tech equipment such as mapping, aerial drones, and digital surveys, as well as 3D modeling during the project.

Cooperation on studying and researching the finds from the excavation will continue for a period of five years.

Jiang Bo, the team leader for the Chinese archaeologists, explained that according to ancient travelogues al-Serrian used to be a busy port with mosques, markets and residential areas during the 13th century.

It is believed the port was a major trade point along the ancient Maritime Silk Road.

Local Arabic historical documents showed that al-Serrian had its peak from the ninth to the 13th centuries, but Jiang speculated that a Chinese porcelain piece he found was produced in Fujian province during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

"It shows that the boom period of al-Serrian might have been much longer," he said.

Nevertheless, he said conclusions can only be reached after excavation. The final report will be published in Chinese, Arabic and English, he added.

Some tombstones also were found, but the writing on them needs further study, Jiang said.

The Maritime Silk Road was an ancient route that connected China to Southeast Asia, the Indonesian archipelago, the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.

The archaeological project is part of a Sino-Saudi cultural heritage cooperation agreement signed during President Xi Jinping's state visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2016.

Following the agreement, a large exhibition, Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia , which displayed hundreds of artifacts from 15 Saudi museums, was held from December 2016 to March 2017 at the National Museum of China in Beijing. The two countries' state leaders attended the event's closing ceremony.

Middle East