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History & Heritage


Saudi Arabia acquires an Institute at the cutting edge of archaeology

Located in AlUla, amidst the ruins of the ancient North Arab kingdom of Dadan, the recently announced Kingdom Institute, established under the auspices of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), aims to become the world’s center for archaeological research and conservation. A look back at this cutting-edge archaeological center…

A world center of discovery, research and collaboration 

This research center, the Kingdom Institute, has only one objective for the Saudi government: to be represented as a world-class scientific center for archaeological research and conservation

The center is therefore entirely dedicated to the study of the history and prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula and aims to affirm the Eastern heritage as a crossroads linking three continents.

The government wants to go even further by making the institute an academic center as well as a cultural platform for knowledge, exploration and inspiration

Above all, the institute is part of Vision 2030, which is to make Saudi Arabia a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation. In addition to developing a global center for the history of AlUla County, the Kingdoms Institute will also train the next generation of Saudi archaeologists and future leaders of the institute, opening new avenues for the country’s young professionals. 

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Multiple skills and missions 

The institute will have within its scope dozens of archaeological and conservation missions involving experts from multiple disciplines working in AlUla County. 

And Saudi and international teams are already involved in these missions, including King Saud University-which has done invaluable background work at AlUla over the past 15 years-as well as UNESCO, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (France), the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (Germany), and the University of Western Australia… 

We have only begun to tell the hidden story of the ancient kingdoms of North Arabia” says José Ignacio Gallego Revilla, executive director of UCR’s Archaeology Department. “There is much more to discover in an archaeological region that has been underrepresented for decades, but will finally get the showcase it deserves in the Kingdoms Institute.” 

The institute will not only peel back the layers of AlUla’s deep history and cross-cultural influence through the lens of archaeological discovery, but will also develop national and international, academic and professional training programs, showcasing cutting-edge methods and techniques, investing deeply in the next generation of Saudi scholars to sustain the Kingdoms Institute for generations to come

The first works of the institute 

The first works of the institute allowed to lift the veil on a series of immense structures which are among the oldest in the world: the Mustafils!

The unprecedented aerial and terrestrial research, carried out by a team from the University of Western Australia, has made it possible to study vast areas of mustafils in the region, both by remote sensing and by helicopter. 

Radiocarbon dating of a bovine horn and tooth found in a mustatil chamber at AlUla, which, along with others, appear to have been used as ritual offerings, revealed to the team a key clue in the search for information: a Late Neolithic date of the sixth millennium BCE!!!

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Published on 30 April 2021