Twenty Years of Saudi-French Archeological Cooperation to be Commemorated by Celebrations in Saudi Arabia

Thursday 1444/5/7 - 2022/12/01
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Riyadh, December 01, 2022, SPA -- The Saudi Ministry of Culture, represented by the Saudi Heritage Commission, together with the French Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), and the French Agency for the Development of AlUla (AFALULA) are set to commemorate 20 years of meaningful collaboration between the Kingdom and France in the field of archeology with a two-day symposium in Saudi Arabia this week. The celebrations aim to spotlight the successful collaboration between the two nations in archeological survey and excavation projects within the Kingdom.
The symposium will begin in Riyadh, where Saudi and French archeologists will present a selection of major findings as a result of joint archeological missions, and their significance in uncovering pieces of Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage. This will be followed by a visit to a curated exhibition that details the journey of cultural collaboration between the two nations – starting from excavations in Hegra, AlUla (Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site) to present day – aided by archeological artefacts and images arranged chronologically.
On the second day, the group will visit archeological sites in AlUla such as Dadan, the capital of the ancient Dadan and Lihyan kingdoms. A statue of a Lihyanite king from Dadan is currently on loan to the Louvre Museum in Paris, and will be displayed at their Department of Near Eastern Antiquities for the next five years.
Speaking ahead of the celebrations, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Culture said: "Our archeological collaboration with France is an extension of the long-standing cultural relationship between our two nations, and is built on our mutual commitment to historical preservation and knowledge-sharing. Over the past twenty years, archeology projects in Saudi Arabia have helped shed light on the civilizations and centuries-old history of the Kingdom, while simultaneously offering French archeological teams with the opportunity to expand their range of expertise with on-ground experience in a truly unique setting."
"This milestone is an opportunity for us to reflect on our achievements, across various field projects, research missions and initiatives, but also look towards future opportunities to further strengthen our bilateral cultural relationship, foster cultural exchange and enrich our joint cooperation,” he continued.
French Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ludovic Pouille, said: "I am honored to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the archaeological cooperation between France and Saudi Arabia this year. Our collaboration officially started in 2002 with the first French-Saudi mission led by the French archaeologist, Dr. Laïla Nehmé, in Hegra, AlUla. However, this historical cooperation goes back to the beginning of the 20th Century, with the trips made by French archaeologists to the Kingdom."
"There have been 16 Saudi-French archaeological missions so far exploring different historical periods in Saudi Arabia, from Neolithic in Khaybar and Al Bad’ to contemporary archaeology in the Old Town of AlUla. Many strategic partnerships, such as the intergovernmental agreement for the development of AlUla signed in 2018, have positioned France as one of the Kingdom’s first partners within this field. I look forward to further enhancing this exceptional cooperation between our two countries in the fields of archeology and heritage."
The story of Saudi Arabia and France’s archaeological cooperation is also set to be memorialized in a special catalogue – which will be printed in Arabic, French and English to reach international audiences.
Current joint Saudi-French excavation projects also include the Neolithic sites of Kilwa and Khaybar near AlUla, as well as Nabatean sites in Al Bidda, Al Faw, a pre Islamic site on the edge of the Empty Quarter, and the Iron Age site of Al-Yamamah, amongst others. The missions currently under way are conducting surveys of the Farasan Islands in the Red Sea, where rare Roman-era pieces dating back to the second and third centuries AD were recently discovered, and the ancient Arabic inscriptions in Najran province. Future collaboration will also see teams undertake excavations in Wadi Al-Sarhan in Al-Jawf, explore underwater heritage in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, and run short- and long-term training programs in restoration.
These archeological collaborations are part of joint efforts between Saudi Arabia and France to foster cultural exchange and understanding through collaboration and knowledge-sharing across various aspects of culture. The success of various joint Saudi-French archeological missions undertaken over the past twenty years – from excavations to analysis and publication of findings – have significantly contributed to both nations. This cross-disciplinary cooperation has augmented academic dialogue between the two nations, facilitated training of young professionals in a prime geographical zone, and enhanced the development of knowledge and research methodologies.
21:17 LOCAL TIME 18:17 GMT