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Examples of site types across the Middle East and North Africa:


Mining in wadi Sha'it (Egypt)

The Egyptian Eastern Desert has been renowned for its natural resources since Antiquity and evidence for mining and extraction is attested from prehistoric times onwards. Today, mining activity in the region has only increased with new methods and technologies, destroying many of the ancient mining sites and putting many more at risk.

Fortified farms in Libya

As early as the 3rd c. AD, fortified farm buildings, also commonly called qsur, began to appear across the Tripolitanian and Cyrenaican countrysides in Libya. These imposing structures continued to be built and occupied well into the medieval Islamic period, and were normally two or three storeys high, often surviving today to several metres in height.

Pendants

Pendants are stone-built circular burial enclosures located at one end of a line of small cairns, thus creating the shape of a pendant when viewed from above. Tens of thousands survive, in particular in the Arabian Peninsula. They are generally dated to the prehistoric period and often occur in clusters, probably representing extensive cemeteries.

Examples of disturbances:


Clearance (bulldozing and levelling)

Clearance (bulldozing and levelling) is a common cause of disturbance of archaeological sites. It often takes place to prepare the ground for a variety of uses, including construction and infrastructure projects and agricultural fields and terracing, or the deliberate looting of archaeological sites. In recent decades, increasingly easy access to bulldozers has radically expanded the challenges that heritage protection organisations are facing.

Agricultural and pastoral

Agricultural and pastoral activities form another major cause of disturbance of archaeological heritage. Sites may be bulldozed to create agricultural fields/terraces or to make room for irrigation projects. Ploughing and the planting of orchards and palms seriously affect archaeological deposits buried close to the surface. Animals may trample across sites, destroying artefacts and structures; however, the presence of shepherds and their flocks can also protect sites against looters.

Destroyed sites

Using satellite imagery and aerial photographs of different dates, it is possible to build a picture of the change in condition of archaeological sites across time. This search provides an overview of sites from the EAMENA database that are considered completely destroyed. As the database is still a work in progress, the search results do not paint an objective picture across the whole region, but reflect where the majority of our detailed assessments have taken place to date.

A selection of sites from the Middle East and North Africa:


Saint Catherine Monastery (Egypt)

St Catherine’s Monastery was founded in the 6th century AD and has been in continuous use since, making this the oldest working monastery in the world. Situated at the foot of Mount Sinaï, it is a sacred place to Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Beidha (Jordan)

The Neolithic and Natufian site of Beidha is part of the World Heritage Site of Petra. It was occupied over the course of the transition from hunting and gathering to early farming. The site is also important because of the transition from (sub-)circular to rectangular architecture.

Petra (Jordan)

At the crossroads between Arabia, Egypt, and Phoenicia, the Nabataean caravan-city of Petra is famous for its rock-carved tombs. In addition, there are temples, religious high places, and an elaborate water system consisting of a large network of channels, dams, cisterns, and reservoirs

Qasr Bshir (Jordan)

Perhaps the best preserved fort of the so-called Limes Arabicus, Qasr Bshir (ancient Castra Pretorii Mobeni) is located in central Jordan. It is the only Roman fort anywhere with its dedicatory inscription still in place above the main gate and this records that it was built during the Roman Tetrarchic period (AD 293–305).

Byblos (Lebanon)

The earliest settlement at the ancient port of Byblos dates to the Neolithic period and occupation has continued through to the present day. An important commercial centre during the 3rd-2nd millennia BC, the site continued to play a role as a port into the Roman and Medieval periods.

‘Anjar (Lebanon)

An 8th-century Umayyad city at the base of the slope of the Anti-Lebanon that was excavated and reconstructed over the course of more than 20 years by the Lebanese Department of Antiquities. Intensive occupation was short-lived so the site provides important insights into Umayyad city planning.

Bu Njem (Libya)

Bu Njem is a Roman military site dating to the 3rd c. AD consisting of a fort with associated settlement, cemetery and temples. Excavations in the 1960s and 70s uncovered numerous documents written on fragments of broken pottery (ostraca) which have provided important details about daily life in a military oasis settlement on the frontier.

Ghadames (Libya)

Ghadames is a desert oasis town located on one of the major trade routes across the Sahara. The town was a nodal point in the Trans-Saharan trade network at least from the early Islamic period onwards.Stone tools of the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods speak of the long history of the site, which was fully occupied until the 1970s when the new town of Ghadames was built next to the ancient site.

Bahla (Oman)

The oasis of Bahla, capital of the Banu Nebhan tribe from the 12th to the end of the 15th century AD, is dominated by the ruins of a fort. Surrounding this are a mud brick settlement and palm grove, encircled by an extensive town wall.

Jericho (State of Palestine)

Quoted several times in the Bible and especially famous for its conquest by Joshua (Joshua 6:26), Jericho/Tell al-Sultan has a long and almost continuous occupation from the Natufian period (10th millennium BC) to our day. The so-called "Tower of Jericho", dated to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (8000 BC) is regarded as the oldest stone structures ever discovered.

Khirbet Birzeit (State of Palestine)

The Khirbet Birzeit Research and Excavation project was carried out in the late 1990s by the Institute of Archaeology, Birzeit University. The ruins of a Mamluk building on the summit of a hill, interpreted as a local administrative centre, were excavated, revealing a continuous pottery sequence from the Iron Age to the Ottoman period.

Tell Mardikh/Ebla (Syrian Arab Republic)

The ancient site of Ebla was the centre of an important Early Bronze Age kingdom. Excavations since 1964 have revealed thousands of cuneiform tablets, along with palatial structures, temples and residential quarters dating from the 3rd-2nd millennia BC.

Thysdrus/El Jem (Tunisia)

The Roman town of Thysdrus dates back to the late 3rd c. BC and the site has been continuously occupied until modern times. Today, most of the Roman city is still buried beneath the modern town of El Jem, but its world-famous amphitheatre still stands tall above the town. The Roman city also boasted a circus and excavations have revealed several houses furnished with spectacular mosaics.

Umm an-Nar (United Arab Emirates)

The archaeological remains of Umm an-Nar were discovered around 50 years ago. Excavations revealed evidence for Bronze Age activity, including building complexes and over 50 tombs. The term “Umm an-Nar Culture” is now used to refer to similar remains dating to the mid-late 3rd millennium BC across south-east Arabia.

Sir Bani Yas monastery (United Arab Emirates)

The Nestorian monastery on the island of Sir Bani Yas (Abu Dhabi Emirate) was the first Christian monastic site to be discovered in the UAE in 1992, followed - in 2000 - by a similar site on the island of Marawah. Its discovery revolutionised understanding of settlement chronologies in the region, as well as the spread of early Christianity.

Barāqish (Yemen)

Baraqish is located in the Jawf region of northern Yemen. Although the site shows its earliest signs of occupation in the 13th c. BC, it reaches its pinnacle under the influence of the caravan kingdom of Ma’in between the 7th and 1st c. BC. A Medieval phase of occupation from the 12th to the 18th century is also attested. Its imposing rampart is one of the best preserved among the pre-Islamic cities of Yemen.

Zabīd (Yemen)

The historic town of Zabid was reportedly founded in the 9th century AD by Ibn Ziyad, the founder of the Ziyadi dynasty. The site was a major cultural and political centre of the Rasulid dynasty between the 13th and 15th centuries. It retains much of its historic domestic and military architecture, and contains one of the highest concentrations of mosques in Yemen.

Shabwa (Yemen)

The ancient capital of the kingdom of Ḥaḍramawt, the site of Shabwa was inhabited from the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC to the early-first millennium AD. Located at the centre of important trade routes, Shabwa thrived in the late-first millennium BC and the first three centuries AD, when the kingdom of which it was the capital extended from the wadi Bayhan to Dhofar (in modern Oman).

Sidon (Lebanon)

Sidon is one of the oldest Canaanite port cities, mentioned in ancient texts like the Old Testament and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The presence of two medieval castles - the land castle and the sea castle - clearly demonstrates its importance in later periods as well. Today it is still one of Lebanon’s largest cities. Excavations near the land castle have revealed a sequence from the Early Bronze Age to the Medieval period.

Krak des Chevaliers (Syrian Arab Republic)

T. E. Lawrence described Krak as “perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world”. Built on top of an earlier stronghold, it was largely constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries, first by the Knights Hospitaller and later by the Mamluks. It became a World Heritage Site in 2006. Since then, it has been damaged by military conflict, but restoration works have also taken place.

Lepcis Magna (Libya)

This ancient port city on the northern coast of modern Libya was founded in the 8th c. BC by Phoenician traders. By the Roman period it was one of the most important cities in North Africa, with many monumental buildings. As birthplace of the emperor Septimius Severus, the city reached its peak in the late 2nd to early 3rd c. AD, but not long after fell into decline, and was almost certainly largely abandoned by the 10th c. AD.