On the Trail From the Sky:
Roads Point to a Lost
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Guided by ancient maps and sharp-eyed surveys from space,
archeologists and explorers have discovered a lost city deep in the sands
of Arabia, and they are virtually sure it is Ubar, the fabled entrep™t of
the rich frankincense trade thousands of years ago.
Leaders of the expedition reported that excavations so far have uncovered
'the ruins of eight towers and adjoining walls and deposits of pottery
dating to Roman times and as far back as 2,000 B.C., perhaps earlier. They
said the location and size of the site and evidence of a violent
destruction appeared to match historical accounts of Ubar's rise and fall.
The discovery, made in November, comes after decades of
exploration and study of historical documents. Much research has tied Ubar
to the city Iram in the Koran and to Omanum Emporium on the maps of
Claudius Ptolemy, the Alexandrian geographer of the second century A.D. He
referred to the people of the region as Ubarites.
Empty Quarter Ruins
But it was not until scientists began painstaking analysis
of satellite images that they spotted geological traces that led them to
the site. Images made with invisible, near-infrared light showed evidence
of ancient caravan routes, undetectable on the ground, leading to and from
one particular area.
The archeologists now believe these
tracks are the routes camels once traversed carrying frankincense across
the burning sands to Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean, thence to markets
in Alexandria and Rome. They could even be the tracks followed by the Wise
Men on their way to the manger in Bethlehem with gifts, according to
tradition of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
days of digging, it was clear we had hit pay dirt," said George R. Hedges,
a Los Angeles lawyer with a background in classical archeology, who helped
organize the expedition. Only after further excavation and investigation
did members of the expedition disclose their find in interviews