Red Sea secrets: new project aims to uncover lost heritage of Saudi Arabia

Vast underwater survey will take place to map submerged shipwrecks and potential treasures

The Heritage Commission of Saudi Arabia holds a press conference at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust) in Thuwal, where experts shared details of Red Sea discoveries. SPA
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The heritage commission of Saudi Arabia will open a research centre to explore the Red Sea for submerged artefacts.

The commission will also conduct a vast underwater survey to look for submerged ships and other items from Umluj to Ras Al Sheikh Hameed, in partnership with King Abdulaziz University and the University of Naples in Italy.

Heritage Authority chief executive Dr Jasser bin Sulaiman Al Harbish, said the commission wanted to share findings with the public on cultural discoveries, underwater heritage sites and its efforts with international scientific experts and institutions.

He said the Red Sea could hold many secrets about the kingdom's cultural history and he voiced his hopes that the commission would contribute to their discovery.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust) is also involved in the project.

Dr Najah Ashri, Kaust vice president and senior co-president for strategic national progress, said the discovery of the underwater heritage in Red Sea waters would be an excellent example of what can be achieved through co-operation with Saudi universities and government sectors in the kingdom.

Kaust laboratories and technological infrastructure will contribute to research and exploration of the secrets beneath the surface.

The area of study covers 600 sq kilometres in the northern part of the Red Sea, documenting more than 25 underwater sites.

A team of Saudi and Italian researchers are conducting a survey of Umluj, where a sunken Ottoman-era vessel contains hundreds of Chinese porcelain pieces in pristine condition. More discoveries are expected as work continues until September 5.

Through the implementation of a marine survey of sites containing submerged archaeological monuments using marine sonar, authorities are able to derive marine maps, mosaic maps and high-resolution images of all sites for data collection and analysis.

The maritime survey ships are equipped with tools to explore Saudi Arabia’s undiscovered treasures and include tools for underwater photography.

Updated: August 18, 2022, 1:00 AM