New agreement for scientific collaboration with the Saudi Heritage Commission

News | Posted on Tuesday 28 May 2024

Earlier this month, Professor Geoff Bailey travelled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to sign a new five-year Scientific Cooperation Agreement with the Heritage Commission of the Saudi Ministry of Culture.

The signing ceremony
The signing ceremony with, from L to R, Amal Abdulaljabbar (Heritage Education, Research and Innovation General Manager in the Heritage Commission), Geoff Bailey, Lloyd Anderson (Director of the British Council in Saudi Arabia), Dr Jasr Al Harbash (CEO of the Heritage Commission), Abdullah al Zahrani, and Sultana Al Sultan (Partnership and Business Development Manager in the Heritage Commission).

Geoff has led joint Saudi-UK research on the earlier Stone Age of the Southwest region since 2004, with Abdullah Alsharekh of King Saud University and an international team of specialists and students. 

This region is thought to be one of the main highways of early migration and contact between Africa and Eurasia. Previous work has included discovery of Early and Middle Stone Age sites, mapping and excavation of shell mounds on the Farasan Islands, and investigation of sea-level change and drowned landscapes in the southern Red Sea. 

Many students and post-doctoral researchers from York took part in this earlier work, including Niklas Hausmann, Robyn Inglis, Eva Laurie, Khadija McBain, Matthew Meredith-Williams and Harry Robson. The new fieldwork will be led by Niklas Hausmann and Matthew Meredith-Williams.

Geoff, who was signing on behalf of the University of York’s Research, Knowledge and Innovation Exchange team, said of the new agreement, ‘There are exciting opportunities for new research and new archaeological discoveries in a region of international significance on the world stage, and the new agreement will strengthen a long-standing relationship between the Department of Archaeology and Saudi colleagues in the government and university sectors at a time when modern developments are putting new pressures on the preservation of the Arabian cultural heritage.’

Dr Abdullah Al Zahrani, who took his PhD in York in 2014, and was signing on behalf of the Heritage Commission as their General Manager for Archaeology, said, ‘It is our pleasure to renew our links with the University of York as part of the Heritage Commission’s expanding partnerships with international universities and scientific centres specialized in the field of heritage’.

While in Riyadh, Geoff met with the women members of the Heritage Commission who are responsible for heritage education and international training partnerships. They expressed a strong wish to develop a bridging programme for Saudi women graduate students and professionals to gain training in York’s strengths in archaeology and cultural heritage and are hoping to visit York later this year for further discussions.