Aerial image of looting of cemetery in Fifa, Jordan
Looting at Fifa, Jordan. Thousands of possible EB I tombs have been looted at this site. This is, unfortunately, not a unique case, with many of the cemeteries in the Dead Sea area suffering from looting.  ©

Image courtesy of APAAME (APAAME_20141013_RHB-0208.)

We are happy to award the Training in Endangered Archaeology Methodology project £1,814,123*

This three-year project will train archaeologists from eight countries in the use of an open-source aerial recording methodology, designed for conflict zones and other areas where access to the ground is restricted. 

Archaeologists from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Tunisia and Yemen will be trained in the use of the EAMENA database, with the overall aim of enabling heritage professionals to better identify and assess threats to cultural heritage which has not yet been recorded. 

Protecting heritage in the MENA region

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are home to some of the world's best preserved archaeological remains, from the earliest hominids, to the first complex agricultural societies, cities and empires.

There are many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the MENA region, but also innumerable smaller-scale but well-preserved archaeological ruins that are of value to local communities and have significant potential for future tourism.

Since the Arab Spring in 2011, and due to on-going conflicts, archaeological sites in the region have come under increased threat with tourism declining considerably. In addition to the targeted destruction of iconic monuments by Daesh, the region's cultural heritage is afflicted by looting, illicit trade in antiquities and deliberate vandalism. There is a longer-term threat posed by political breakdown and the eventual post-war construction boom, which could result in the wholesale redevelopment of sections of these sites.

The EAMENA database  

Under development by the Universities of Oxford and Leicester since January 2015, with support from the Arcadia Fund, the EAMENA database contains aerial, satellite and ground observed information for 97,000 sites and is the first open-access digital archaeological record for the region. 

With support from the Cultural Protection Fund, this project will provide intensive training in EAMENA methodologies for up to 20 archaeologists in each country (150 in total) at events held in Amman, Tunis and Beirut. Training will cover:

  • the acquisition and analysis of existing satellite data and air photo records 
  • the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and digital records management. 

The training manuals and guidance notes for using the EAMENA database will be translated into Arabic, as well as Kurdish and Farsi, so that data can be inputted and accessed in the future by heritage professionals in those countries.

*The project has received two grant increases (£99,099 in July 2017 and £99,999 in June 2018) through two additional successful small grant applications. The additional funding has enabled the project to expand its current training and recording programme into Egypt and Yemen, meaning that a total of eight target countries will now benefit from the project (originally Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Occupied Palestinian Territories and Tunisia, now inclusive of Egypt and Yemen). The total number of training placements will be increased from 120 to 150 as a result.

Arial image of bulldozer damage to Pendant burial, near Azraq, Jordan
Bulldozer damage to a Pendant burial, near Azraq, Jordan. Recent construction of a by-pass in the Azraq area has led to numerous archaeological sites being damaged, including this pendant.  ©

Image courtesy of APAAME (APAAME_RHB_20160526-5561)

About the applicants

The application is from a consortium of three UK higher education institutions (University of Oxford, University of Leicester, and University of Durham) with the University of Oxford acting as the lead applicant organisation.

Project partners