Alright bombers, I decided to do a little Google search for this Iram of the Pillars place and I found this great New York Times article that gives a good background. Sounds fascinating:
by Nicholas Clapp (Houghton Mifflin, 1997, $24)
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company
The Koran, the Arabian Nights and countless Bedouin tales have recounted the story of a fabled city known as "the Atlantis of the Sands," a city hailed as "first among the lost treasuries of Arabia."
It was, the legend went, a magnificent city of enormous riches and indulgence, a city abruptly destroyed, like Sodom and Gomorrah, by the wrath of God, and since covered by the windswept sands of the Arabian desert.
Of the city's king, Harry St. John Philby, the flamboyant Arabist, wrote: "He had waxed wanton with his horses and eunuchs and concubines in an earthly paradise until the wrath came upon him with the west wind and reduced the scene of his riotous pleasures to ashes and desolation!"
Philby was apparently not the only explorer to search in vain for this legendary city, known variously as Ubar, Wabar, Qidan and Iram. Over the years, the explorers Bertram Thomas and Wilfred Thesiger, as well as a British airman named Raymond O'Shea, all made forays into the region, and a few years after World War II, an American adventurer named Wendell Phillips put together a team to try to find the mythical city.
Even T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia) was reportedly contemplating a search for Ubar, in the days before his death in a motorcycle accident in 1935.
It would be a complete amateur -- a documentary filmmaker named Nicholas Clapp -- who helped put together the expedition that found the ruins of a lost Arabian city in 1992, a city identified in all probability as Ubar. In his book, "The Road to Ubar," Clapp sets down his account of his quixotic quest, and its improbably happy resolution. The result is a delightfully readable, if often highly speculative, volume that's part travel journal, part Walter Mittyesque daydream and part archeological history.
As Clapp tells it, his search for Ubar began one day in a Los Angeles bookshop, where he stumbled across a book called "Arabia Felix" by Bertram Thomas. Clapp and his wife, Kay, had been looking for an excuse to return to the Arabian desert -- they had recently been in Oman, doing a documentary on an endangered animal called the oryx -- and the book's talk of the elusive city of Ubar set the filmmaker to thinking.
Clapp began researching the lost city in the library stacks at the University of California at Los Angeles, and began to wonder whether Ubar might be the city identified as Omanum Emporium on a map of Arabia drawn by the Alexandrian geographer Claudius Ptolemy in the second century A.D.
The city would have been a vital trade stop on the incense road, used by caravans bringing frankincense from a far corner of ancient Arabia across the desert to the great markets of Petra, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Damascus and Rome.
Having read a newspaper story about an airborne radar system that had located some Mayan ruins, Clapp put in a call to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to ask whether the space shuttle could be used to help locate the ruins of Ubar. Amazingly enough, his call was transferred to a geologist named Ron Blom who said he would try to help. Clapp's quest to find Ubar was on its way.
On the way there would be a series of delays, dead-ends and difficulties, ranging from antenna problems with NASA radar to sandstorms in the Arabian desert to a little complication known as the Persian Gulf war. But Clapp and the expert team he helped assemble -- including Blom; Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a British explorer with close ties to the Sultan of Oman, and Dr. Juris Zarins, a specialist in Arabian archeology -- persevered, using the space images they'd obtained to identify ancient camel tracks, hidden beneath the desert's blowing sands.
Once on the ground in Oman, the expedition encountered a host of practical problems: poisonous scorpions and snakes, gun-toting shepherds and debilitating, brain-frying heat. Clapp describes such encounters with lots of comic verve, while regaling the reader with assorted myths, tales, rumors and some archeological history.
After ruling out several possible sites for Ubar, the team found themselves back at the ruined fort that marked a small oasis known as Shisur; the fort had been described by earlier explorers like Thomas and Thesiger, but was written off as being no more than a few hundred years old. Upon closer observation, however, Clapp's team began to speculate that the fort had simply been (italics)rebuilt(end italics) in the 1500s and that it in fact marked a far more ancient site.
Under the direction of Zarins, the team began excavation, and within weeks had unearthed the wall and towers of a fortress dating back more than 2,000 years.
Although there was no way to say without reservation that the site was Ubar, says Clapp, the evidence uncovered suggests "a convincing match" for the legendary lost city: even the legend of its destruction matched evidence that the fortress had been destroyed when the well around which it had been built collapsed into a giant sinkhole.
The destruction of Ubar, Clapp argues, probably occurred after some six centuries of prosperity in the incense trade. The city's physical collapse, it seems, came sometime between A.D. 300 and 500, when a faraway earthquake precipitated the collapse of the limestone table underlying the fortress's main gate; the real cause of Ubar's demise as a trade center, Clapp adds, was the rise of Christianity, which diminished the demand for incense (previously used in funeral rites and as an offering to the gods).
Toward the end of this book, Clapp inserts a highly conjectural chapter that tries to reconstruct, through the devices of fantasy and fable, the experiences of a king of Ubar. This foray into fiction not only undermines the author's narrative authority, but also fails to fulfill any useful function.
Indeed, its fictional drama pales next to the gripping real-life story of the Ubar expedition recounted in earlier portions of this volume.----------------------------------------------------------------
For a brief summary, in 1992 this explorer who had heard about the city, just like Nathan, went on a harrowing trip and found the remnants of the legendary place which dated back over 2000 years. He found that it was likely buried after an earthquake that aggravated a sinkhole around 300-500 CE.
One detail that may be interesting if the game looks into it: Ubar financially collapsed after the advent of Christianity since its main product, incense, was no longer as sought after.
I love the historical aspect of Uncharted, and, as long as we have to wait for gameplay and story elements, I figured looking at the history might be interesting. Enjoy.
Also, according to the Qu'ran, God smote Iram (which I guess is a city, while Ubar is a region) because its King Shaddad dissed the prophet Hud so God created the sandstorm that buried it. Any posters of Muslim faith who can talk about the relative importance of that event please do!