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7th-8th century AD ebony pillar during conservation in the laboratory of JHD's General Department of Archaeology.In a monumental revelation that connects the past with the future, the Jeddah Historic District Program, in collaboration with the Heritage Commission, has announced the discovery of 25,000 artifacts, some dating back to the nascent years of Islam, in the heart of Saudi Arabia. This remarkable find highlights the Kingdom’s rich cultural tapestry and aligns with the ambitious Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to position Jeddah as a beacon of cultural tourism and historical preservation.

At the heart of this archaeological triumph are four sites: the Othman bin Affan Mosque, Al-Shona, the Eastern Moat, and a portion of the Northern Wall. These sites, each with its own story, have yielded treasures that speak volumes of Jeddah’s storied past, from the early Islamic era through the Umayyad, Abbasid, and Mamluk periods and into modern times.

Iron round shot (cannonball) during conservation in the laboratory of JHD's General Department of Archaeology.

Iron round shot (cannonball) during conservation in the JHD’s General Department of Archaeology laboratory.

The initiative, blessed by the vision of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, is not merely an excavation but a journey through time, revealing the layers of history that have contributed to the Kingdom’s identity. Among the discoveries are 11,405 pottery sherds, 11,360 animal bones, 1,730 shells, 685 building materials, 187 glass artifacts, and 71 metal artifacts, collectively weighing over half a ton. These findings are a testament to the area’s vibrant history and connections to global trade networks, as evidenced by the variety of ceramics, porcelain from Jiangxi, China, and ebony pillars from Ceylon Island, indicating Jeddah’s role in ancient trade routes.

The meticulous archaeological work has focused on unearthing and analysing artifacts to construct a detailed narrative of Jeddah’s history. For instance, the ebony pillars found at the Othman bin Affan Mosque suggest the mosque’s origins in the early Islamic period, highlighting Jeddah’s spiritual and cultural significance through the ages.

Furthermore, the international collaborative effort has brought to light over 984 historical documents, including maps and drawings of Jeddah, which are being thoroughly studied. This archival research complements the physical excavations, offering a fuller picture of Jeddah’s historical landscape.

View of the interior of al Shona showing archaeological remains belonging to various historic phases.

A view of the interior of al Shona shows archaeological remains belonging to various historical phases.

The significance of these discoveries extends beyond academic interest; they are a bridge to the past for Saudis and international visitors alike, enriching the cultural fabric of the present and future. The artifacts, now part of the National Archaeological Register, are treasures of the Kingdom and invaluable contributions to the global understanding of Islamic history.

This historic undertaking has been meticulously documented and preserved, with over 250 wood samples taken for specialized analysis, highlighting the Kingdom’s commitment to leveraging technology and expertise in preserving its heritage.

Thanks to these discoveries, as Jeddah steps into the limelight, it reaffirms the Kingdom’s dedication to its past and its vision for the future. The Saudi Vision 2030 is a roadmap for economic and social development and a pledge to cherish and share the Kingdom’s heritage with the world.

The Jeddah Historic District Program’s achievements are a clarion call to the world, showcasing the depth of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to uncovering and preserving its historical legacy. This project, a cornerstone of the Saudi Vision 2030, not only enriches our understanding of the Islamic world but also positions Jeddah as a custodian of history, inviting the world to explore the treasures of the past and the promise of the future.

As we look forward to the unfolding stories and discoveries that Jeddah has yet to offer, it’s clear that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not just building towards a vision of the future but also deeply honouring the roots that have shaped its rich cultural landscape.




Written by: Bridget Gomez