With over 327 delegates from 39 countries marking their presence, the three-day inaugural AlUla World Archaeology Summit in Saudi Arabia successfully has concluded with a series of discussions on the future of archaeology and its ability to enact meaningful change for society.
The organisers, Royal Commision for AlUla (RCU), say in a press statement that the summit included over 80 speakers, 50 youth delegates participating in the Future Forum, representation from 167 institutions including 65 universities, and a gender ratio of 47 pc female to 53 pc male.
According to RCU, discussions ranging from the usefulness of ancient wisdom in a modern context to digital archaeology and inclusive archaeology reflected the ambition of the summit.
It says the four broad themes of identity, ruinscapes, resilience and accessibility aimed to generate interdisciplinary conversations that moved beyond the specialist mindset in order to promote archaeology to wider audiences.
“This summit was exceptional. It was unique. We discussed topics vital to the future of archaeology with a broader perspective and I hope we continue the discussion,” says Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, Executive Director of Archaeology, Conservation and Collections at the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).
The organisers say the summit showcased AlUla’s position as a global hub of archaeological activity. They say that RCU is sponsoring one of the world’s largest archaeological research programmes across AlUla and Khaybar, with 12 current surveys, excavations and specialist projects. Rich cultural landscapes are being revealed, including funerary avenues, mustatils, ancient cities, inscriptions in 10 languages, rock art and complex agricultural practices. AlUla is also the site of Hegra, which in 2008 was inscribed as Saudi Arabia‘s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The statement by RCU says that the summit’s Future Forum provided a platform for young people to engage in meaningful dialogue and debate about the future of archaeology, including an announcement of a new prize, the AlUla World Archaeology Summit Award of Excellence. It is to be awarded at future summits and will promote the science of archaeology, Alsuhaibani said.
The organisers say that the leaders gathered from varied disciplines, ranging from academia, government, non-government organisations, industry, and young people representing the next generation of archaeologists, created to not only enrich the archaeological community and help protect shared history but also to open up a larger reflection of what and how archaeology and more broadly cultural heritage, can contribute to transformational changes in society.