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Wendell Phillips’ team begins excavation at a peristyle hall in Marib, present - day Yemen. Courtesy American Foundation for the Study of Man.

Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips

October 11, 2014–June 7, 2015
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Unearthing Arabia: The Archaeological Adventures of Wendell Phillips traces for the first time the extraordinary archaeological expeditions of Wendell Phillips and his intrepid team. Much of their work was conducted in 1950 and 1951 at Timna, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Qataban, and at nearby Hajar bin Humeid, which “in antiquity stood at the fork in the incense road,” as Phillips observed. The objects are organized according to the different sites that the team excavated: Timna and its South Gate, the House Yafash, the monumental temple, and the cemetery located just outside the city limits, as well as the site of Hajar bin Humeid. Unearthing Arabia concludes with a discussion of more recent excavations in Marib, conducted from 1998 to 2006 and supported by the American Foundation for the Study of Man and its current president, Merilyn Phillips Hodgson. Wendell Phillips’s own words and lively descriptions of events convey the excitement, drama, and challenges of this expedition more than sixty years ago.

Unless otherwise indicated, all of the objects shown here are from the archaeological expeditions led by Wendell Phillips in modern-day Yemen in 1950 and 1951. All of the expedition photographs are courtesy of the American Foundation for the Study of Man. All quotes are from Wendell Phillips, Qataban and Sheba: Exploring the Ancient Kingdoms on the Biblical Spice Routes of Arabia (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1955).

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Wendell Phillips
     Expedition Team
Why Southern Arabia?
Ancient Incense Trade
Language & Writing
     Hajar bin Humeid
     Awam Temple

Family guide

Unearthing Arabia Family Guide
(PDF, 1.7MB)
Download and print this family guide for exploring the exhibition with children. Best for ages 6 and up.

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As renovation work continues in the Freer Gallery, the Sackler Gallery also will close on July 10, 2017. This museum-wide closure will allow us to completely reinstall our exhibitions and revitalize features to improve your visit. Both spaces will reopen on October 14, 2017, when we will welcome the public back to the Freer|Sackler: two galleries, one destination. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.