Press Releases 2014-2015

Welsh University’s Major International Project Helps Qatar Discover its Rich History

28.03.2014

Dr Andrew PetersenArchaeological experts from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) are helping the Gulf State of Qatar reveal the secrets of its long past through a major international project.

The Wales Qatar Archaeological Project was set up by UWTSD Lampeter-based archaeologist Dr Andrew Petersen. Dr Petersen has an interest in the Ottoman period archaeology of Arabia and has experience of teaching archaeology in the United Arab Emirates.

Dr Petersen travelled to Qatar in 2008, a visit which by chance coincided with a decision by the Qatar Museum Authority (QMA) to begin a comprehensive series of archaeological investigations targeting Islamic period sites. This was the catalyst for the creation of the Wales Qatar Archaeological Project.

Britain has a strong relationship with Qatar dating from the mid-nineteenth century extending through the decades of Ottoman Empire rule, which lasted from 1872 until the outbreak of the First World War in 1915.

Following the Ottomans, Sheikh Abdulla bin Jassim Al-Thani become Qatar’s ruler. He signed a treaty with Britain agreeing not to dispose of land without British consent and, in turn, Britain guaranteed to protect Qatar from outside aggression. During the mid-twentieth century increasing oil revenue made Qatar a prosperous land and it declared its independence as the State of Qatar in 1971.

Dr Petersen said: “On a tour of the archaeological sites in northern Qatar, I was immediately struck by the density of the occupation along the coast and saw the potential of a targeted excavation programme.

“So far two sites have unearthed a rich history of the State. The excavation of a site called Ras ‘Ushairiq uncovered a large settlement called Rubayaqa which revealed several large courtyard homes, a mosque and two cemeteries. Finds from the site were as diverse as iron cannon balls to wooden chess pieces and large quantities of ceramics.

Excavated Mosque Ruwayda Site

‌“A second site called Ruwayda has revealed the remains of a town which was dominated by a large fortress. It includes a Mosque complex, workshops and warehouses and a tomb. Other finds, such as ceramics, indicate long-distance trade with nations such as China, southeast Asia, Oman, Iran and India.”

Analysis of the sites has been further enhanced following the award of a Qatar National Research Fund Grant. This gave the Project an opportunity to use an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to carry out survey work. It allows 3D terrain models to be generated and is able to support the creation of high-resolution maps of the sites under investigation. Through the use of on-board sensing systems, such as near Infra-Red, thermal and various other techniques, the UAV has the potential to identify sub-surface remains.

The relationship between Wales and Qatar has strengthened in recent years. There has been an archaeology conference, ‘Nations of the Sea’, which brought together archaeologists from the two nations who are investigating common themes in coastal archaeology. Links have also been developed economically through the importation of Qatari gas to the UK at the LNG Terminal at South Hook near Milford Haven.

An interactive exhibition is currently taking place at Virginia Commonwealth University Gallery in Qatar, involving UWTSD and the QMA. Called ‘Lines in the Sand’ it unearths Qatar’s rich and complete history exploiting interactive media design to create new ways to view, use and engage with the State’s past.

Note to Editor

  1. For more information or to interview Dr Andrew Petersen please contact Steven Stokes, Senior PR and Communications Officer, on 07872 423788or email steven.stokes@sm.uwtsd.ac.uk
  2. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David was established in 2010 through the merger of the University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College, Carmarthen. On 1 August 2013 the Swansea Metropolitan University merged with the University.
  3. The University’s Royal Charter 1828 is the oldest in Wales, and it is third behind Oxford and Cambridge in Wales and England. HRH Prince of Wales is the Patron of the University.
  4. On 1 August, 2013 Coleg Sir Gâr merged with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David Group, however they will keep their own brand. Coleg Ceredigion merged with the Group on 1 January 2014.

Further Information

Steven Stokes
Senior PR and Communications Officer
07872 423788
steven.stokes@sm.uwtsd.ac.uk