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An Amazing Discovery In The Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia: ‘A Burial Represents A Symbol Of Pharmacy’

The astonishing discovery of hundreds of thousands of tombs, varying in shapes and sizes—some reaching dimensions of hundreds of meters—would not have been possible without the profound passion and immense interest of Saudi field researcher and anthropologist, Dr. Eid Al-Yahya. These intriguing tombs are expected to reshape our understanding of the history of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the history and civilization of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular.

Among the most famous and remarkable patterns is the one that carries historical and philosophical significance, which we have named the “Pharmacy and Medicine” symbol. This is due to the striking resemblance between the architectural design of this pattern and the symbol of pharmacy and medicine known in the modern world, which the people of the Arabian Peninsula conveyed to the civilizations of Mesopotamia and subsequently to later civilizations such as the Greek and Roman.

The astonishing model we will delve into is an architectural pattern that is currently unique to Mount Tuweq. Its design and overall shape open horizons for exploring the philosophy and beliefs of the people of the Arabian Peninsula, who designed this tomb according to principles and motives related to the world of life, health, and healing from diseases through the depiction of symbols of living organisms around them. Here, we specifically refer to the symbol of the snake, which was embraced by civilizations of the nearby and distant regions. More precisely, it is a tomb shaped like a snake coiling around a staff from its beginning to the head. Its distinctive model is found at the top of Mount Tuwaiq in the city of Al-Ghat , with the following coordinates: 26°09’30.8″N 44°55’12.9″E.”

It should be noted that the first person to look at the shape of the stone building was researcher Muhammad Al-Rashid, in his book “Atlas of Stone Structures” (Al-Rashid, 2019, p. 98), where he reviewed the building as a stone structure without mentioning that it was a type of burial ground belonging to the symbol of pharmacy in the ancient and modern world.

What reinforces the fact that the region is culturally concerned with sanctifying the snake and linking it to life, health, and medicine, as previously mentioned, is the discovery by one of the local residents, Abdulaziz Al-Tamimi, who graciously sent us what he photographed by himself (see photo-2) of a drawing engraved on a large rock not far from the pharmacy burial, and it represents a complete match with the symbol of the deity of medicine in the Mesopotamian civilization.

As for the artistic scenes discovered in Mesopotamia that confirm the transmission and use of the mentioned symbol in the design of the Pharmacy and Medicine tomb, we find a clear similarity in purpose and form. It is known among experts of Mesopotamian civilization where the predominant human element consists of migrants from the Arabian Peninsula to the Mesopotamian Valley that the Mesopotamian deities were granted specific symbols, each assigned to a specific deity.

Among these symbols is the representation of a serpent coiled around a rod. The snake was a symbol of the god Ningišzida, the god of medicine and healing for both the Sumerians and other peoples of Mesopotamia. The artistic scenes have shown us this symbol represented by a pair of coiled snakes intertwined with each other. The most prominent example that indicates this symbolism is the vase belonging to the Sumerian king Gudea (2144-2124 BCE), made of steatite stone with a blackish-green color, measuring 23 cm in height, preserved in the Louvre Museum in Paris. On its outer surface, two erect and intertwined snakes encircle a symbolic shape resembling a winding staff.

The cuneiform texts attributed to the Sumerian king Gudea confirm the nature of the relationship between this king and his deity Ningišzida, considered a symbol of healing and medicine in addition to being the protector of King Gudea and the main god of medicine. Given the importance of medicine in the eyes of the people of Mesopotamia, it was under the auspices of this deity and his father, the god of medicine called “NIN.A.Zu,” which means “Lord Physician” (Labat R, 2001).

It is worth mentioning that the association of medicine and pharmacy with the symbol of the staff around which the snake coils, as seen in the mentioned tomb, has connections that go beyond mere shape and design. These connections extend to language and meaning, as well as pictorial symbolism in cuneiform writings since the end of the 4th millennium BCE. The Sumerian word for a physician is “luA.Zu,” meaning “the man of medicine.” From it, the Akkadian term “asủ” was derived, meaning “physician.” There is also the term “luGal A.Su,” which means “chief of physicians” in Sumerian, and “asi” in Akkadian, from the Babylonian and Assyrian periods (Labat R, 2001). These terms refer us to the name of the god of medicine with the mentioned symbol.

As for the herbalist or pharmacist, they are known as “Ašipu,” and the word and meaning are very close to the term “herbalist” in Arabic. Furthermore, there are other closely related terms in both Sumerian and Akkadian, such as “IŠIB” in Sumerian and “išipp” in Akkadian (Labat R, 2001), which give us the meaning of an adviser or counsellor. It can be speculated that the singular form of the term approximates the word for herbs in Arabic, which refers to the herbs that herbalists typically use in treating patients, either by burning them or through prescriptions based on natural herbs, which are still prevalent in our present day.

The pictorial symbol of the sign consists of a horizontal staff resting on a vertical staff in the middle, resembling the Latin letter “T”. (Refer to the cuneiform symbol in figure number-4) (see Labat R No.53276). The term also exists in Akkadian, having a similar meaning, referring to the priest or religious advisor, as seen in the term “luMAŠ-MAŠ” in Sumerian and “ašipu” in Akkadian, with its two branches, Babylonian and Assyrian. It should be noted that the term “MAŠ” alone gives us the meaning of the profession of divination or diviner (Labat R No.53276). Additionally, the pictorial representation of the name “MAŠ” consists of a snake with a triangular head and a tail.

If we turn to the material evidence found in artistic scenes in the Arabian Peninsula, specifically in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where the tomb of pharmacy and medicine is located, the scenes depicting the serpent on stone vessels discovered in multiple archaeological sites in the eastern part of the kingdom, dating long after the tomb of pharmacy and medicine, provide additional evidence that supports our previous findings. For example, artistic scenes discovered in Tarout Island, including a fragment of a vessel made of soapstone with a dark brown color displayed in the Riyadh Museum, showing a coiled serpent with a complete head and part of the body, intersecting with another serpent whose head is not visible.

Another scene depicted on a fragment represents half of a vessel made of dark gray soapstone, decorated with a scene of two serpents on either side, with a muscular man between them, emphasizing his strength and bulging muscles (Ali Al-Hammad, 2014, p. 129) (refer to Figure-5). This scene possibly alludes to the Sumerian hero of the famous epic of Gilgamesh as he attempts to catch two spotted serpents, symbolizing his quest to retrieve the plant of immortality that the serpent had consumed on his way back from Dilmun to his city of Uruk.

It is worth mentioning that the scene of the coiled serpent on a staff, which is still used as a symbol for medical, pharmaceutical, and pharmaceutical associations worldwide, as we have seen earlier, was adopted by the Greeks and Romans from the symbol of the Mesopotamian god of medicine and pharmacy. Its origin can be traced back to the style of the tomb of pharmacy and medicine in the Arabian Peninsula, which was known in Greek and Roman civilizations as belonging to

the god Apollo, and later to the god Asclepius. We often see statues of Asclepius accompanied by the same symbol, represented by the staff around which the serpent is coiled. The same is said about the symbol of the serpent and staff of Asclepius and the staff of Hermes


Saudi Gazatte

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