Damages and Threats to Archaeology in North Africa

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Title: Damage and threats to archaeology in North Africa

Session: Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa: Research from Heritage Protection

Since 2015, the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project has been documenting archaeological sites across the MENA region and the threats posed to them in an online database. Recording across North Africa is being predominantly undertaken at the University of Leicester.
Analysis of damage and threats across North Africa has required a slightly different approach to the Near East. Firstly, different chronologies and site types are present. Crucially, the timescales of processes which have affected the preservation of sites are also different. In many areas of the Middle East extensive damage was caused to archaeological sites in the 1970s/80s due to agricultural expansion, meaning that legacy data such as Corona is often the best available dataset. Conversely in much of North Africa expansion of agriculture has intensified recently, meaning that high-resolution modern satellite imagery is of particular value. Secondly, while the effects of conflict have been high-profile throughout the MENA region, the impact of more mundane activities is significant. However, the threats and damages faced to Archaeology in North Africa differ from region to region. This requires a wide variety of responses in the effort to record and protect the sites in the diverse countries that form North Africa.
In this paper we present a discussion of the distribution of EAMENA’s data for archaeological sites in North Africa and of the key threats to their preservation. Our methodology primarily comprises image interpretation and classifications of freely-available satellite data (e.g. via Google Earth, Sentinel). For targeted sample areas we are also employing methods which utilise high-resolution current and historical satellite and aerial observation systems including sensors such as WorldView, Pleiades, and unmanned aerial vehicles. So far we have recorded over 8000 sites from case study areas in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. In particular we have identified the significant risks posed by rapidly expanding irrigated agriculture, for example in the Jufra oases in Libya, urban growth, (e.g. Cyrenaica, Libya), and natural processes including erosion and flooding (e.g. the Draa valley, Morocco). A narrow window of time is available in which we can make use of modern spaceborne data in conjunction with archaeological research to record these sites before they are destroyed.
Period27 Mar 201829 Mar 2018
Event titleBritish Association for Near Eastern Archaeology
Event typeConference
LocationDurham, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational