Alula cultural oasis project (ucop)

Saudi Arabia



The AlUla Valley has attracted human populations since prehistoric times and has remained until now a centre of urban settlement. Four successive towns developed in the valley: Dadan (Iron Age), Hegra (Nabataean period), Al-Qurh and Al-Ula (Islamic period).

Stretching over several hundred hectares along Wadi AlUla, the present oasis of AlUla is heir to a long tradition of water and land management. The region has been arid since the mid-Holocene, and irrigation was indeed necessary for the settlement of sedentary populations.

The “AlUla Cultural Oasis Project” (UCOP) – funded by AFALULA (French Agency for the Development of Al-Ula) and carried out in close partnership with RCU (Royal Commission for AlUla) – aims precisely at reconstructing the long history of this oasis through mapping and study of remains from all periods. The first stage of this work is the systematic survey of the oasis for the establishment of the archaeological map. Cartographic and spatial analyses will be carried out in a second stage.

The objective is to analyse the population dynamics in relation to the evolution of water management technologies over the long term. This work is therefore necessary to understand the history of archaeological sites in Al-Ula Valley. The results of UCOP should also contribute to the protection and tourism development of AlUla oasis (RCU Master Plan).

Oases constitute a precious heritage that is now endangered as it is threatened in many regions by development and climate change. Yet, it is fundamental to study and protect these anthroposystems, as they represent obvious examples of sustainable development in arid regions.

Project directors
Dr. Julien Charbonnier (Archaïos, Associate researcher, UMR 7264 CEPAM/Université Nice Côte d’Azur)
Dr. Yasmin Kanhouch

Dr. Julie Goy (Archaïos)
Dr. Jessica Giraud (Archaïos)
Thomas Huet (Archaïos)
Emmanuelle Devaux (Spécialiste Free-lance)
Dr. Armance Dupont-Delaleuf (Associate researcher UMR 7041 ArScan)
Francelin Tourtet (Freie Universität Berlin)
Vincent Bernollin (Associate researcher, UMR 8546 AOROC)
Pierre Siméon (Associate researcher UMR 8167 Orient&Méditerranée)