Twenty-six hundred years ago, a brisk trade in frankincense put caravans on the desert and ships on the sea. Seagoing vessels sailed within sight of land in the Sea of Arabia, making nightly portal for safety along the eastern coast of Arabia. After a lengthy journey along the caravan routes from Jerusalem, a family completed the last leg of their Arabian trek through the Dhofar, a mountainous region in the south of the modern-day Sultanate of Oman. They arrived at a coastal plain made verdant by monsoon rains blowing off the African coast from southwest to northeast. The family’s arrival was not unusual mid the constant flux of travelers in the region.
In 1998, another, much smaller group traveled east to cross the desert. “I wanted to write a book, but I could not write from the Biblical perspective. I began to read and learn about ancient Arabia,” explained S. Kent Brown, ancient studies director at the Religious Studies Center and professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. He assembled researchers to contribute from the extraordinary pool of talent at BYU. Accompanying him on that first trip were W. Revell Phillips, emeritus professor of geology and minerals specialist; Terry B. Ball, associate professor of ancient scripture and archaeobotanist; David J. Johnson, associate professor of anthropology and archaeologist; and Arnold H. Green, professor of history and Middle East specialist who speaks Arabic and acted as historian.