The Saudi Ministry of Antiquities and Museums has been excavating this site since 1981. It is near Najran. The results have revealed an fortification with exterior wall built of finely shaped stones containing watch holes or arrow slots. A number of buildings inside the fortification have also been found. Animal figures and inscriptions are depicted on rocks. Outside the fortified area several graves, foundations of houses, and different types of artifacts have also been discovered, dating from Byzantine, Umayyad, Abbasid and later periods. The excavations also revealed that besides being a trading center it was also an agricultural area with dams and a well-developed canal irrigation system. The presence of large numbers of inscriptions on the site, suggest that it was an important station along the caravans routes.
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The name Al-Ukhdud means ‘the ditch’ (sometimes ‘the trench’, sometimes ‘the groove’) and is mentioned in the Quran as the site of a massacre of Christians in 525 AD.
The Frankincense Trade Route from Yemen passed through Al-Ukhdud (near Najran) on its way to Makkah, Madinah and then on to Palestine, Syria, the Arabian Gulf and Mesopotamia.
Cities along the main caravan routes were able to levy taxes on the merchants, and in this way they became rich. At its peak, Al-Ukhdud was one of the most important trading cities in Southern Arabia and its wealth was demonstrated by the high quality construction of the main buildings. There still remain substantial areas of dressed stone, and ornate bronze drain spouts.
Al-Ukhdud declined in importance when traders discovered how to sail to India on the monsoon winds. Around the same time there was a decline in demand for frankincense when Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire in 395.
In revenge for this attack the Ethiopians (Abyssinians) invaded and deposed Dhu Nuwas. For the next few decades, the area was under Abyssinian rule. The city of Al-Ukhdud readily accepted Islam in 10H (631) and has remained staunchly Islamic since.
The remains of Al-Ukhdud lie south west of Najran near the museum on Prince Sultan ibn Abdul Aziz St.