Oil company helps Queen of Sheba dig

By Dean Hetherington

The University of Calgary can continue to uncover the legend of the Queen of Sheba, thanks to a recent donation.

Local oil and gas producer Nexen Inc. donated $300,000 to the Faculty of Archeology for distribution over the next three years. The funds will help to continue excavations in the Rub al-Khali desert in Yemen.

"We’re extremely grateful for this donation," said Dean of Social Sciences Steve Randall. "Nexen has worked very efficiently with the university and the Yemen government. This is a definite act of corporate responsibility for a company to show interest culturally and economically in a cooperative nation."

Dr. Bill Glanz-man of the Faculty of Archaeology is currently the field director of an international team of archaeologists and earth scientists.
Excavations in progress at the 3000-year-old Ma-hram Bilqis temple have produced numerous finds.

"We found a statue of a deity in the form of a bull," said Glanzman. "This bull statue is about twice life size. We’ve also found artifacts from as far away as Persia and India brought to this site to worship that particular deity."

The site was employed during the reign of the Queen of Sheba from 1200 BC to 550 AD and was first found by Wendel Phillips in 1951, said Media Coordinator for Social Sciences Cheryl Moner.

"Because of security issues the site was abandoned in 1952," she said. "Back in 1997, [research] was resumed, and Dr. Bill Glanzman was made field director at that point."

Although work on the site is headed by a member of the university, the site permit is owned by an American holder.

"Our involvement is due to the American Foundation for the Study of Man," said Moner. "The woman that runs it is Merylyn Phillips-Hodgson, sister of the late Wendel Phillips, and she still has the permit to that particular site. When it was decided to resume excavations it was her that brought Bill on board."

This is the only archaeological project Nexen has invested, though the company has made other contributions to the university and Yemen.

"This isn’t really close to our other operations but it fit with our contributions with the university and it fit with our initiatives in Yemen," said Nexen representative Carla Yuill. "In Yemen, we have multiple operations such as electrical programs, scholarship programs, and the building of hospitals."

Both university and Nexen representatives think the cooperative effort is a positive venture.

"Pardon the pun, but we’re really only dusting the tip of the iceberg," said Glanzman. "We have a strong belief that work will continue because there are at least six to eight metres of excavations to still do under the sand."

"If this becomes what Bill Glanzman envisions, it could be really big for the country of Yemen, economically and culturally," said Yuill.

See The Gauntlet’s Queen of Sheba Feature earlier from September 14, 2000.


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