Archaeology and Ancient History

Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa are home to some of the best preserved and most important archaeological sites in the world. Yet this irreplaceable heritage is under enormous threat. Reasons for this include urban development, agriculture, looting, warfare, and natural erosion. The rate of development is so fast, that we are in danger of not only losing these sites but any record of their existence.

In 2015, the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project, a collaboration between the universities of Leicester, Durham and Oxford, was set up. The EAMENA team is comprised of archaeologists, researchers, heritage experts and volunteers. The project works with national heritage organisations and officials. Together, we document and protect archaeology under threat throughout the region.

Tunisian research participant Mouna Hermassi using QGIS to map archaeological sites. A technical map is visible on her computer screens.

The team uses satellite imagery, aerial photography and on-the-ground visits to record archaeological sites and assess their condition. There are now over 200,000 records in a specially-created database. It is an online, open-access source that anyone can search: We also try to help with improving or developing similar databases in each of our partner countries.

The project also works with local educational organisations. Our goal is to raise awareness of the value of archaeology and cultural heritage with policy-makers and the general public. With this in mind, we are preparing with Amy Barnes educational exhibitions intended to go on tour at schools and community centres in Libya and Tunisia throughout 2019.

Thanks to a grant from the Cultural Protection Fund, training has become a key part of the EAMENA project. We have trained heritage professionals from ten different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Participants have learned how to use new technologies and have practised new skills. These include interpreting satellite imagery, creating database records of archaeological sites, as well as the using geographical information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS). They will use this training to help manage and protect the heritage under their care.

The photos included here depict training workshops organised by the University of Leicester, which took place in Tunisia in November 2017 and April 2018. These sessions were organised and carried out by David Mattingly, Matthew Hobson, Julia Nikolaus, Louise Rayne, Mohamed Abdrbba, Ahmed Buzaian, Muftah Hddad and Ahmed Emrage with great help given by British Council staff and the British ambassadors to Libya and Tunisia. More training workshops are scheduled in 2019.

Research participants posing at Bardo National Museum

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