At the start of the project in 2015 the different countries of the Middle East and North Africa had very different digital heritage management capacities. Jordan had perhaps moved furthest down this route, initially with the JADIS database, replaced by Mega-Jordan in 2012 in a project supported by the Getty Conservation Institute. Some countries had no digital heritage capacity, and the Mega-Jordan software was superseded by the ARCHES platform. Increasing numbers of headline news stories regarding the destruction and loss of heritage made it appear urgent that support be given to improving the knowledge base of the cultural heritage of the region, and so the EAMENA project was launched.
The project was initially launched by Andrew Wilson at Oxford, and the two initial Project Directors, Bob Bewley and David Kennedy, had both been engaged in the aerial archaeology of the region for over two decades, undertaking annual aerial reconnaissance expeditions in conjunction with the Royal Jordanian Air Force to photograph the landscape and archaeological sites of Jordan. Their work, stored in the online ‘Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East’, along with digitised historic collections of aerial photographs from across the region, has provided an invaluable tool for researchers and has also highlighted the accelerated risk to sites, in particular from agricultural and urban expansion.
Since 2021 the project director has been Bill Finlayson, who had worked in the region as Director of the Council for British Research in the Levant between 1999 and 2017. The original team from Oxford and been joined by teams at Durham, led by Graham Philip, and Leicester, led by David Mattingly, helping to survey the vast area covered by the project. Following the core funding from Arcadia, which was primarily for prospection and recording, the project has also been awarded funds from the Cultural Protection Fund to build expertise in the region.
The project database is kept as open access as possible, and additional databases have been created in a number of countries. Our intention is that by the time the EAMENA project ends, several countries will have not only the databases they need, but the staff to manage and maintain them. We also hope that archaeologists working throughout the region will add their data to support this important means of protecting cultural heritage.
EAMENA’s primary aim is to rapidly record and evaluate the status of the archaeological landscape of the MENA region in order to create an accessible body of data which can be used by national and international heritage professionals to target those sites most in danger and better plan and implement the preservation and protection of this heritage.
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