First AlUla World Archaeology Summit gathers over 300 delegates from 39 countries for wide-ranging discussion of archaeology’s role in society

First AlUla World Archaeology Summit gathers over 300 delegates from 39 countries for wide-ranging discussion of archaeology’s role in society

“Archaeologists should think of their own identities as well as those of the sites they are excavating or studying,” Dr Khaled Melliti, an historian and researcher with France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), said during a panel discussion.

“Every [era of] archaeology is a contemporary archaeology,” concurred Prof. Emanuelle Papi, director of the Italian School of Archaeology at Athens, in which people see the past “with the eyes of their own time.”

For example, he noted, there was a time in Italy when the glories of Rome’s Imperial era were at the foundation of national identity. But in excavating Roman ruins, he said, archaeologists of that time would run roughshod over relics from the Middle Ages, Byzantine and Renaissance eras.

Similarly, Dr. Melliti noted that since Tunisia’s return to popular rule following the uprising of 2010-11, the perception of the country’s archaeological heritage has altered accordingly. In the aftermath of the uprising, he said, “We have discovered the existence of a republic beneath the Tunisian soil.”

Their comments reflected the ambition of the summit to generate new discussions that move beyond the specialist mindset and follow paths that connect archaeology to wider communities.

Indeed greater connection with local communities was cited as one way for archaeologists to avoid imposing their own worldviews on heritage.

For example Lucy Semaan, the Lebanon-based lead maritime archaeologist from the Honor Frost Foundation, said that while exploring an underwater site she will speak to local fishermen to learn where they fish and what names they use for various aquatic zones. This can prove useful in providing insights that connect the past to the present, she said.

And Prof. Robert Hoyland, professor of Late Antique and Early Islamic Middle Eastern History at New York University, told the story of his first working expedition as an archaeologist, in Syria. At one point he went into a shop and told the shopkeeper that he was excavating a Roman town. “No,” she corrected him, “you’re excavating an Arab town of the Roman period.”

Earlier in the day, Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU, welcomed the delegates to AlUla. Alternating between Arabic and English, he noted that RCU’s adherence to the principles of sustainable tourism benefits cultural heritage sites.

“Our project isn’t about leveraging heritage to attract visitors. It’s about leveraging visitors to sustain heritage,” he said.

The summit continues tomorrow with a focus on resilience and accessibility, complementing the first day’s focus on identity and ruinscapes.

On Wednesday the summit’s guests attended a gala dinner outdoors amid palm groves at the ancient oasis of Daimumah. The adventurer and writer Levison Wood observed in a speech that the summit is a journey of exploration and extends the tradition of other explorers and pioneers in the region, from Ibn Battuta to Gertrude Bell and Lawrence of Arabia.

AlUla World Archaeology Summit

AlUla’s position as a hub of archaeological activity is continuing to expand as RCU hosts the inaugural AlUla World Archaeology Summit taking place from Sept 13-15, 2023.

The summit is a platform for advancing archaeology and cultural heritage management in their interface with other disciplines. This gathering of leaders from academia, government, non-government organisations, industry, and young people representing the next generation of archaeologists will not only enrich the archaeological community and help protect shared history but also open up a larger reflection of what and how archaeology, and more broadly cultural heritage, can contribute to transformational changes in society.

For more on the summit, go to

Contact information

For media enquiries, please contact [email protected] 

About the Royal Commission for AlUla

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) was established by royal decree in July 2017 to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in north-west Saudi Arabia. RCU’s long-term plan outlines a responsible, sustainable, and sensitive approach to urban and economic development that preserves the area’s natural and historic heritage while establishing AlUla as a desirable location to live, work, and visit. This encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts, reflecting a commitment to meeting the economic diversification, local community empowerment, and heritage preservation priorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 programme.

Contact: Jinith Joy, [email protected]; +971 50 721 9369

Photo –

Photo –

Photo –

Photo –

SOURCE Royal Commission for AlUla


newsletter signup

PRN Top Stories Newsletters

Sign up to get PRN’s top stories and curated news delivered to your inbox weekly!

Thank you for subscribing!

half circle

By signing up you agree to receive content from us.
Our newsletters contain tracking pixels to help us deliver unique content based on each subscriber’s engagement and interests. For more information on how we will use your data to ensure we send you relevant content please visit our PRN Consumer Newsletter Privacy Notice. You can withdraw your consent at any time in the footer of every email you’ll receive.
Mit Ihrer Anmeldung erklären Sie sich damit einverstanden, Inhalte von uns zu erhalten.
Unsere Newsletter enthalten Zählpixel, die die Lieferung einzigartiger Inhalte in Bezug auf das Abonnement und die Interessen der einzelnen Abonnenten ermöglichen. Weitere Informationen über die Verwendung Ihrer Daten im Hinblick auf die Zusendung von relevanten Inhalten, finden Sie in unserer PRN Consumer Newsletter Privacy Notice. Ihre Zustimmung können Sie jederzeit in der Fußzeile jeder erhaltenen E-Mail widerrufen.
En vous inscrivant à la newsletter, vous consentez à la réception de contenus de notre part.
Notre newsletter contient des pixels espions nous permettant la fourniture à chaque abonné, d’un contenu unique en lien avec ses souscriptions et intérêts. Pour de plus amples informations sur l’utilisation faite de vos données en vue de l’envoi des contenus concernés, nous vous invitons à consulter la politique de confidentialité disponible à partir du lien suivant PRN Consumer Newsletter Privacy Notice. Vous pouvez à tout moment revenir sur votre consentement par le biais des informations situées au bas de chaque e-mail reçu.
Регистрирайки се, Вие се съгласявате да получавате информационно съдържание от нас. Нашите бюлетини съдържат проследяващи пиксели, които ни помагат да предоставяме уникално съдържание въз основа на ангажираността и интересите на всеки абонат. За повече информация относно начина, по който ще използваме Вашите данни, за да гарантираме, че Ви изпращаме подходящо съдържание, моля, направете справка с нашето Уведомление за поверителност на потребителския бюлетин на PRN. Можете да оттеглите съгласието си по всяко време в долния колонтитул на всеки от имейлите, които ще получите.