Islamic archaeology through the Wales / Qatar project

Dr Andrew Petersen

The project is concerned with the research excavation and survey of number of coastal sites in northern Qatar. Currently the University of Wales Trinity Saint David is working on two sites Ruwaydha and Rubayqa under the direction of Dr.Andrew Petersen. Preliminary reports on both sites have been published in the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. The excavation team comprises a number of former students of archaeology from the University.

In addition to fieldwork in Qatar Dr. Petersen has also organised a conference on the archaeology of Wales and Qatar in partnership with LNG South Hook. This international conference, Nations of the Sea, was held at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff in September 2010 and brought together researchers from diverse backgrounds to discuss common themes in the archaeology of Wales and Qatar. Plans for publishing the proceedings are currently in progress.

For further information about the excavations visit the Wales Qatar Archaeological Project website

Of particular importance is the Nations of the Sea Conference held at the National Museum of Wales which brought together researchers from Qatar and Wales. The conference was funded by LNG South Hook, a Qatari company based in the UK and also supported by the Qatar Museums Authority. Welsh institutions supporting the conference included the National Museum of Wales and Cadw. Petersen is also  working with the Qatar Tourism authority to open one of its heritage locations to the public as a combined natural and historic heritage site with a view to UNESCO designation in the future. He has also acted as a consultant for the British Museum Exhibition on the Hajj contributing text to the catalogue and advising on content and aims for the exhibition. His work on the archaeology of the Hajj also featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme Making History.  He is currently advising and contributing material for the Hajj Exhibition to be held at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha while research on Medieval and Ottoman Palestine has also been used to inform architectural projects in Nazareth and elsewhere in Israel and Palestine.

Funders of research include:

  • Qatar Museums Authority
  • British Academy

This project is part of the Qatar Islamic Archaeology and Heritage Projects which is run in collaboration with the Qatar Museums Authority and the University of Copenhagen.

Qal’at Ruwayda and the fortifications of Qatar. Andrew Petersen & Faisal al-Naimi . Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 43 (2013): 1–16

This paper reviews the latest findings from the excavations at Ruwayda in northern Qatar. The paper will focus on results that relate to the development of the fortified enclosures, which are the principal remains visible on the site. The recent excavations have enabled us to establish a detailed relative chronology of the sequence of the fortified enclosures on the site. These results will be used as a basis for a discussion of other fortifications in Qatar. Particular attention will be paid to issues such as the size of the enclosed areas, the shape and size of the towers, the location of the gateways, and adaptation to firearms.


Islamic urbanism in eastern Arabia: the case of the al-ΚAyn–al-Buraymī oasis. Andrew Petersen. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. Volume 39, 2009.

This paper discusses the evidence for urban settlement in eastern Arabia in the pre-modern period, paying particular attention tothe al-ΚAyn–al-Buraymī oasis. The sparse historical sources for the oasis indicate that the region was of some significance in earlyIslamic times although these sources do not indicate the nature of the settlement. The historical review is followed by a review ofthe archaeological evidence for Islamic settlement first in al-ΚAyn on the UAE side of the border and then in al-Buraymī within theSultanate of Oman. The most significant pieces of evidence from al-ΚAyn are a section of falaj covered with a vault of fired brickdated to the seventh to eighth centuries AD, and a small mosque also dated to the early Islamic period. It is suggested, however,that the most promising area for future archaeological work is al-Buraymī where nineteenth-century historical accounts indicate an urban settlement complete with walls and market places. Particular attention is paid to a 1968 aerial photograph of al-ΚAyn andal-Buraymī, which shows a number of significant features including two lines of falaj and a now vanished  fort. The conclusionconsiders the potential for further work in this area and sets it within the context of discussions on Arabian urbanism.


The Medieval and Ottoman  Hajj Route in Jordan: An Archaeological and Historical Study  . Oxbow Books. 2012.

As one of the five pillars of Islam the pilgrimage to Mecca (the Hajj) is central to the life of all Muslims. A network of roads radiates from the Hijaz like a giant spider's web, connecting Mecca to all parts of the Muslim world. Historically the most significant of these routes starts at Damascus in Syria, and is a direct continuation of the ancient trade route connecting Arabia to the Levant. The Prophet Muhammad is known to have used this route when he travelled as a merchant from Mecca to Bosra in Syria. In more recent times this was the route chosen for the Hijaz railway which figured prominently in the great Arab Revolt. A significant part of this route runs through Jordan, from the wide grasslands of the north to the sandy desert of the far south. This book documents the archaeological and architectural remains which line this route, paying particular attention to the forts and cisterns built and maintained by the Ottoman rulers from the 16th century onwards. A series of introductory chapters provide the historical context, with an emphasis on the political and military significance of the route from the 16th to the 18th centuries. In addition to the detailed coverage of Jordanian Hajj forts, the book also describes the sites and path of the route through Syria and Saudi Arabia. The final part of the book describes the results of excavations at one of the forts, which gives an insight into the material culture of both the pilgrims and the soldiers who manned the forts.