National Geographic : 1948 Apr
I'cter Irue (' ornwall Tombstone of an Elijah, Found in a Qatif Orchard, Suggests a Christian Burial Some 1,700 years old, the tablet is inscribed in Sabaean, a Phoenicianlike alphabet, used in ancient Saba (the modern Yemen, the Biblical Sheba), whose queen visited King Solomon. On the right, a mutilated figure is thought to represent a heathen priest. Islam's spread in the seventh century replaced both paganism and Christianity along the Persian Gulf (page 519). Carmathian fanatics ranged and fought in eastern Arabia. Sworn enemies of the caliphs, and possessed of a prophet of their own, the Carmathians gained control of numerous towns and strong holds on this side of Arabia. Once, too, they actually raided Mecca and carried off Islam's sacred Black Stone, keeping it in Hasa for a score of years. After leaving this cliff castle, we camped at a place some 24 miles east of Qariya es Sifla. During the evening there shuffled into the tent an aged Arab, reputed to be one of the best and most trustworthy guides in the peninsula, a man who "knew Arabia from the Rub' al Khali to the Wadi Sirhan." By lamplight we discussed the topography of the northeast, and I asked particularly whether any caves or notable ruins were known to him. But he assured me that the cliff castles were all that mattered. I could not help thinking, though, that dur ing his wanderings in the interior this man must have passed by many sites which some day will reveal a story to archeologists, and that his feet may have kicked aside flint arti facts discarded by primitive men whose very existence he has never suspected. Inner Arabia may hold much for the pale- ontologist also. In Pliocene strata, 90 miles west of Dammam Dome, oil geologists have discovered some teeth and leg bones from a primitive form of mastodon, together with a jaw fragment of an early antelope. These fossils are perhaps 25,000,000 years old. Gulf a Fiery Furnace in Summer On the following day I explored two more cliff castles. They turned out to be much like the first one, and around all these settle ments were scattered flint bird arrowheads, together with quantities of potsherds. Our route now led back to headquarters at Dhahran, and a few weeks later I re turned by motor launch to Bahrein Island. For spring was already near, and there was much further excavating to be done on Bah rein before increasing heat turned the Gulf into a fiery furnace. During the four summer months tempera tures range as high as 130 degrees in the shade. If workmen lay down their metal tools, they must bury them deep in the sand; otherwise they become too hot to handle. So with many regrets I left Hasa and its diverse antiquities, hoping it was "au revoir" only, not farewell. But as the Arabs express it, "Allahu 'Alim" (God is the Knower).