As winter approaches and international travel allows, archaeological work is resuming in AlUla, a historically rich region that has been relatively untouched in comparison to similar places. In what has become one of the world’s most active archaeological explorations, experts are beginning to fill in missing links in our understanding of the region’s human history with new discoveries – and further announcements are expected soon.
AlUla, in north-west Saudi Arabia, is a region of deserts and arid mountains. Yet, crucially, amid this hard landscape is a fertile oasis valley that has long sustained life and the wider area has drawn people and civilizations for more than 200,000 years.
As a result, while AlUla is best known for the Nabataean tombs of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, over 27,000 other archaeological sites have been identified within its borders with more set to be discovered and recorded in the coming months.
Archaeologists, conservators, photogrammeters, and other specialists are returning to AlUla, following the Covid-19 lockdown, and resuming their fieldwork. Despite the geographical size of AlUla (22,561 km2) and the scope of heritage contained within, it is only in the last few years that AlUla has seen more than limited archaeological exploration.
That has changed thanks to archaeologists of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) – the governmental body charged with developing and administering the region – and the teams it organizes, tapping experts from Saudi and international universities, research institutes, museums and other professionals, as well as the French teams that the Agence française pour le développement d’AlUla (AFALULA), a key partner, brings.
RCU’s discoveries have established that prehistoric peoples of AlUla hunted and grazed in AlUla in a greener land than today. New findings in the mysterious, vast, and previously unexplored, monumental landscape they and generations after left behind suggest their culture was far more complex than once thought.