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Hima a rock art site in Najran

Date of Submission: 08/04/2015
Criteria: (i)(iii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Najran Region, Hima Province
Coordinates: N 2018554.00 E 443724.00
Ref.: 6033
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Hima Well located between Najran and Wadi Addawasir, and Hima well site was a conduit for caravans trade route in the Arabian Peninsula, and the site ruminants dates back to the ancient prehistoric and historical times, the area is characterized by the proliferation of diverse rock art on the mountain faces, the ancient writings of the southern Arabian Musnad script, which was used by ancient Arab kingdoms southern Arabia, due to the proximity of Najran Region to the capitals of those kingdoms, Hima  well includes a number of stone structures and cumulus tombs and archaeological wells. Hima wells are located 140 kilometers north of the city of Najran in a mountainous area belonging to Najran province. The wells date back more than seven thousand years from the present, and it is the oldest archaeological station on the caravan route, which still serves fresh water in the desert of Najran. Its rocks provide a sincere Historic record for all ages that passed like an honest record of all feelings and inscriptions and writings of commuters from various times. Hima wells area is considered among the most important ancient inscriptions and rock art sites that include Human and animal drawings in addition to writings in Al-Badia letters better known as Thamudic and South Mussnad and Kufic letters. Between its flanks spread more than 34 archaeological landmarks between primitive and archaeological dwellings, and many wells that are still in use now. The number of wells at the site is about 7 wells, surrounded by caves and mountains from all sides, where the distribution of rock art in mountains and caves, dating back to different stages of civilization. Expeditions provided formal evidence that the site’s history ranges from the seventh millennium BC to the first millennium BC. Among the most prominent archaeological activity areas in the region and neighbouring areas: archaeological City of Al-Ukhdood (Trench), and other sites in the Empty Quarter, such as Khatma wells, and site Al-Kanawar, one of the most prominent Neolithic sites, and Jalda site, in addition to South Al- Monbtahat site, and Shi’eeb Dahdha and the old trade road, Madhiaq Dam, Qarn Al-Zaafaran.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Hima wells have outstanding universal value for the quality and density of its rock art engravings, for the substantial collection of rock art images depict hunting, fauna, flora and lifestyles in pre-historic times and cultural continuity between prehistoric and mediaeval times that the site reflects. The area has the highest and most dense ancient inscriptions that contain a historic record of 3000 years old era.

Criterion (i): The impressive array of engravings and rock art of various periods gives the site a universal value. The representations of human figures evoke possible trade and religious practices some 7.000 years BP, whereas the representations of animals depict the daily and social life as prehistoric parietal art, have an aesthetic naturalistic realism.

Criterion (iii): The rock engravings are an exceptional testimony to a way of life that has disappeared in the way they graphically represents activities connected with trade, hunting and travel at a time when the climate and vegetation of the area were more suited.

Criterion (v): The variety of landforms at the site has played an essential role in fostering human settlement. The rock art, inscriptions document the settlements of successive communities, which developed in areas of mobile animal husbandry and agriculture and form part of a wider context of human interaction with the semi-arid southern desert environment of the Arabian Peninsula illustrating adaptability and ingenuity of human communities who have made the most of scarce resources to sustain continuous presence.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: Since the identification of Najran as a potential cultural and  tourism destination, the various landforms and cultural resources have been managed in a shared framework, which prevented extensive development impacts and maintained the landscape character of the property.

Authenticity: The rock art remains in its original setting, largely unaltered except for the effects of weathering, which has led to its fading as result of rain and wind erosion, leaving some petroglyphs hard to distinguish. In addition modern graffiti has a negative impact on several of the original drawings and inscriptions. However, the fact that so many petroglyphs and inscriptions have been documented means that their ability to convey the cultural traditions of the people who made them continues and that they qualify as an important resource for research.

Comparison with other similar properties

Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape:

Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape covers three areas of a plateau of rocky boulders rising out of the semi-desert of central Azerbaijan, with an outstanding collection of more than 6,000 rock engravings bearing testimony to 40,000 years of rock art. The site also features the remains of inhabited caves, settlements and burials, all reflecting an intensive human use by the inhabitants of the area during the wet period that followed the last Ice Age, from the Upper Palaeolithic to the Middle Ages. The site, which covers an area of 537 ha, is part of the larger protected Gobustan Reservation. 

Wadi Rum Protected Area:

The 74,000-hectare property, inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site, is situated in southern Jordan, near the border with Saudi Arabia. It features a varied desert landscape consisting of a range of narrow gorges, natural arches, towering cliffs, ramps, massive landslides and caverns. Petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains in the site testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment. The combination of 25,000 rock carvings with 20,000 inscriptions trace the evolution of human thought and the early development of the alphabet. The site illustrates the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban activity in the region. 

Tassili n'Ajjer:

Located in a strange lunar landscape of great geological interest, this site has one of the most important groupings of prehistoric cave art in the world. More than 15,000 drawings and engravings record the climatic changes, the animal migrations and the evolution of human life on the edge of the Sahara from 6000 BC to the first centuries of the present era. The geological formations are of outstanding scenic interest, with eroded sandstones forming ‘forests of rock’. 

Chongoni Rock-Art Area

Situated within a cluster of forested granite hills and covering an area of 126.4 km2, high up the plateau of central Malawi, the 127 sites of this area feature the richest concentration of rock art in Central Africa. They reflect the comparatively scarce tradition of farmer rock art, as well as paintings by BaTwa hunter-gatherers who inhabited the area from the late Stone Age. The Chewa agriculturalists, whose ancestors lived there from the late Iron Age, practised rock painting until well into the 20th century. The symbols in the rock art, which are strongly associated with women, still have cultural relevance amongst the Chewa, and the sites are actively associated with ceremonies and rituals.

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes has one of the largest concentrations petroglyphs, i.e. rock engravings in Africa. Most of these well-preserved engravings represent rhinoceros, . The site also includes six painted elephant, ostrich and giraffe, as well as drawings of human and animal foot printsd rock shelters with motifs of human figures in red ochre. The objects excavated of  from two sections, date from the Late Stone Age. The site forms a coherent, extensive and high-quality record of ritual practices relating to hunter-gatherer communities in this part of southern Africa over at least 2,000 years, and eloquently illustrates the links between the ritual and economic practices of hunter-gatherers.

Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas

The Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas, contain an exceptional assemblage of cave art, executed between 13,000 and 9,500 years ago. It takes its name (Cave of the Hands) from the stencilled outlines of human hands in the cave, but there are also many depictions of animals, such as guanacos (Lama guanicoe), still commonly found in the region, as well as hunting scenes. The people responsible for the paintings may have been the ancestors of the historic hunter-gatherer communities of Patagonia found by European settlers in the 19th century.

Rock Paintings of the Sierra de San Francisco

From c. 100 B.C. to A.D. 1300, the Sierra de San Francisco (in the El Vizcaino reserve, in Baja California) was home to a people who have now disappeared but who left one of the most outstanding collections of rock paintings in the world. They are remarkably well-preserved because of the dry climate and the inaccessibility of the site. Showing human figures and many animal species and illustrating the relationship between humans and their environment, the paintings reveal a highly sophisticated culture. Their composition and size, as well as the precision of the outlines and the variety of colors, but especially the number of sites, make this an impressive testimony to a unique artistic tradition.