French geologist returns bronze antique coins he acquired from AlUla in 1966

February 20, 2020

Saudi Gazette report

PARIS — In a unique gesture, a French geologist returned to the Royal Commission for AlUla a set of antique bronze coins that he had acquired during his visit to AlUla Governorate in 1966.

Jean-Claude Lefevre, the geologist, handed over the heritage pieces to Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Suhaibani, acting director of Museums and Galleries at the Royal Commission in a ceremony at the Arab World Institute in Paris.

Lefevre obtained the antiques during his visit to Al-Ula Governorate while working in the Kingdom in 1966, and during his visit to Al-Hijr (Madain Saleh), the first Saudi heritage site entered in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. He had obtained these coins from a child whom he met at Al-Hijr.

Jean-Claude recently visited the exhibition “AlUla: Oasis of Wonderland in the Arabian Peninsula,” which is currently being held at the Arab World Institute in Paris.

This was after more than 50 years of his acquisition of the coins. The visit to the exhibition reminded him of the time that he had spent in AlUla and the coins he obtained during the visit.

Then, he contacted the Royal Commission for AlUla, expressing his desire to return the coins to be showcased in their original home in AlUla Governorate.

The archeology management team of the Royal Commission for AlUla will carry out studies to determine the coins’ history so as to contribute to understand the historical role of AlUla Governorate as a meeting place for successive civilizations and cultures throughout history.

Lauding the noble gesture of Jean-Claude in returning the artifacts, Dr. Al-Suhaibani said: “This is a very exciting discovery, and our specialized teams will work to clean the coins using the approved scientific methods, so that we can study them. It is to be noted that most of the coins in this region is either Nabatean or Roman...

“We are very grateful for the contribution that Lefevre has made in protecting our heritage and returning it to its place of origin.”

Jean-Claude’s visit to AlUla in 1966 was part of an official mission with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources. It is be noted that the Saudi law at present protects heritage and antiquities, and criminalizes any excavations that are not carried out without official permission.

The Paris exhibition on AlUla, which showcases huge treasures of AlUla’s history and culture, will run until the beginning of March, and later on the exhibition will tour to other global destinations.

Meanwhile, Saad Al-Matrafi, spokesperson of the Royal Commission, denied rumors about the presence of gold reserve in AlUla governorate.

“The video clip circulated on social media is old and that documents that excavators found small fragments of pottery statues of an animal in Umm Darj in Al-Ula governorate,” he said stressing that there is no gold at all in the province.

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