AlUla is a fertile valley, at the ancient crossroads of the incense and aromatic caravan routes leading from the south of the Arabian Peninsula to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the shores of the Mediterranean. Around 2.800 years ago, Dadan was one of the most important trade route stations. In the second half of the 1st millennium BCE, it was ruled by the kings of the Lihyan tribe, who retained power for several centuries.
Several colossal statues that were found are believed to depict kings and priests. All these were discovered between 2005 and 2007 during archaeological excavations in the sanctuary of Dadan led by King Saud University. The ‘Monumental Statue’ that is currently on loan at the Louvre shows great craftsmanship. The statue’s smooth surface with intricate details shows the muscles of the torso, abdomen, and the remains of the limbs display characteristic elements of the Lihyanite school of sculpture. These features indicate the statue’s distinct local character and reflect the early artistic influence of Ancient Egypt or Greece.
Giving it on loan for five years is an important step to close a critical historical gap in the Louvre’s near-east collection, given that the Arabian Peninsula is under-represented in most of the Museums. This display highlights the archaeological discoveries and preservation work carried out at AlUla by RCU.
AlUla is home to 200,000 years of human history, and an important part of it can now be shared with the Louvre’s international audience through this long-term loan of the statue. The statue was restored in France in 2010 in the context of the Roads of Arabia through a selection of 300 works, most of which had never been seen before outside their country of origin, “Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” exhibition artifacts were presented at the Louvre at that time. Visitors were offered, during this exhibition an unprecedented glimpse into the various cultures that inhabited the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from prehistoric times to the dawn of the modern era. Since its establishment in 2017, RCU has overseen a wide range of archaeological projects that have been of great importance to regional and global history made by an international team of experts. This exhibition is the beginning of great collaborations between the RCU and the French institutions of heritage, research and education in the future.