Austrian Embassy hosts Qurayyah historical discoveries lecture in Riyadh

RIYADH: The Austrian Embassy recently hosted in Riyadh a lecture by Professor Marta Luciani titled Revealing Arabia’s Mega-Sites: The Joint Heritage Commission-University of Vienna Discoveries in Qurayyah.

The embassy invited Luciani to highlight some of the discoveries made by her and the Saudi Heritage Commission during their partnered excavations.

“Qurayyah was a very ancient mega site, an urban oasis that was created in that location because of the Celtic landscape that was very important for the people. So they decided to develop a city or an urban oasis in this location. It was a key major settlement in the Bronze and the Iron Ages,” Luciani told Arab News.

“We have done six excavation campaigns, and every campaign is one-month long with students … This is a cooperation between the Heritage Commission and the University of Vienna,” Luciani said.

The professor added that the team comprised 20-25 Austrian students and Heritage Commission professionals who had worked for a full month on rotations every year for the past six years.

Luciani said that soon she will take the seventh group of students to the excavation site.

The professor said that the information during her lecture was made possible through the partnered excavations via the university and heritage commission, sharing insight and historical information and knowledge together.

“This has been ongoing since 2015, and we have been very lucky in some sense that we found some situations that were quite distinctive. We have had very good results even in comparatively little time,” Luciani said.

“There was a whole local culture (in the desert) that developed very early in the Bronze Age that we are discovering now, but we did not know until last year, and until two years ago, we did not know that it was so relevant,” she said.

Austrian Ambassador Georg Postinger explained that the mission of hosting an event such as this in the embassy was to spread awareness, share the Kingdom’s history and spark a revival of archaeology for new generations through partnerships with experts.

“Saudi Arabia has a fantastic heritage, a lot of it is hidden under the ground, and with one of our experts who is leading the Austrian-Saudi team who is partnering in Qurayyah, we could have wonderful insights into how important these sights really are,” Postinger said.

“For us Austrians, it’s not that we want to come here and say, ‘Well, it’s Austria who makes these findings.’ What we want is to continue to a certain extent a tradition that existed in Saudi Arabia before. As far as I’m concerned from professor Marta Luciani is that you (Saudi Arabia) had a very solid generation of very good archaeologists now to revive the whole thing, and to get new people and new generations it’s always good to rely on someone who has a long history in these things,” Postinger said.

The lecture highlighted archaeological findings that detailed the autonomy of the mega-site of Qurayyah and its inhabitants’ cultural and urban practices.

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