Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and the Royal Commission for AlUla join forces for an extensive cooperation in archaeology

Christine Neau-Leduc, President of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, and Abeer AlAkel, Acting CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), signed an agreement on 21st February 2024 at the Dadan heritage site, paving the way for privileged cooperation in training and research in archaeology. Announced during the Choose France Saudi Arabia 2024 event, this initiative aims to create new opportunities for capacity building and knowledge transfer in areas of mutual interest.

Fostering educational and scientific activities

Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University will provide its expertise by offering Saudi and French students an international Master's level programme in the fields of archaeology, conservation and restoration of cultural heritage. The academic cooperation project also includes annual training workshops delivered by faculty members from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne on the archaeological site of AlUla, in Saudi Arabia, as well as immersive archaeological field schools organised in collaboration with RCU.

The scientific section of the agreement will see the creation of a Chair that aims to foster academic exchange, research advancement and international cooperation between RCU and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. A twin-sited archaeological research centre for comprehensive research, publication, and dissemination of scholarly work related to north-west Saudi Arabia will also be set up in Paris and AlUla. A number of projects are planned within this framework: visits from professors and researchers to develop training and scientific activities, co-direction or co-supervision, as well as annual conferences and seminars.

A dynamic and long-standing French-Saudi collaboration

Founded in 2017, RCU aims to ensure the sustainable development of the AlUla region while preserving and enhancing its natural and cultural heritage by working with local and international experts in a broad range of areas such as archaeology, heritage conservation and preservation and tourism. The French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) supports its Saudi partner in this process by mobilising French experts to transform AlUla into a worldwide cultural and tourist destination.

This extensive partnership between Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and RCU is based on a long-standing collaboration between the university and Saudi Arabia in various disciplines, primarily archaeology, through the Sorbonne School of Art History and Archaeology (EHAAS). The university is firmly rooted in the regional archaeological landscape, thanks to the historically active involvement of its researchers in excavations on the Arabian Peninsula, and more specifically in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The training course and Chair developed under this new cooperation agreement will carry the name "Jaussen and Savignac", in reference to the two Frenchmen who are widely credited with making the first archaeological discoveries in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 2018, a cooperation agreement between France and Saudi Arabia had already been established for the development of the AlUla archaeological site. In this context, RCU had notably signed an agreement with Campus France to enable the training of Saudi students in France in the key fields of hospitality, tourism, agriculture, archaeology and heritage, thanks to a dedicated mobility scholarship programme.