Saudi-Belgian research project in the Al-Ghat region

Start - End 
2016 - 2019 (ongoing)
Department of Archaeology
Research Focus 



Research in the Al-Ghat desert region, located in the Alhamada valley northwest of Riyadh, was inspired by the Abdulrahman Al-Sudairy Foundation and His Excellency Marc Vinck, the former Belgian ambassador in Saudi Arabia. Until now, two research campaigns were conducted: in December 2012-January 2013 and in March 2014. Mohammed Ali Alsalouk, Antiquities and Museums Consultant of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Riyadh, and Joachim Bretschneider, professor at Ghent University/KU Leuven direct the joint mission.

The project is three-fold: a survey and study project looking for early human activity in the area, the study of the textual and iconographical material incised on rocks and the topographical documentation of significant sites. In order to cover the different parts of the overall project, the mission has established a collaboration with Prof Dr Philip Van Peer (KU Leuven) and with Prof Dr Jan Tavernier (UCLouvain).

The joint Saudi Arabian-Belgian project of a presently insufficiently researched area confirms the potential of the Al-Ghat region as far as its history and prehistory is concerned. The rich textual and iconographic material in the Wadi Markh area adds to the importance of the Al-Ghat region for the ancient history of Saudi Arabia. In bringing forward evidence of prehistoric cultural connections to Africa as well as the Levant, the Al-Ghat project contributes to the unraveling of the early expansion history of our species in a landscape different from today. Understanding this landscape is the aim of extensive topographic and environmental investigation. So far, in the primary stages of research, the region of Inner Arabia has already provided archaeological and topographical data forming a base for future collaborations, which may help provide solid empirical grounds to the presumption that Central Saudi Arabia was a gateway for early modern humans out of Africa but also represented an interaction zone between the African and Eurasian worlds.

 Lithic artefacts from Jebel Samar and Jebel Markh (Saudi-Arabia)

Lithic artefacts from Jebel Samar and Jebel Markh (Saudi-Arabia)


  • Bretschneider, Joachim, Mohammed Alsalouk, Jan Tavernier, and Philip Van Peer. 2017. “Contributions to the Early History of Saudi Arabia : Initial Results of the Saudi-Belgian Research Project in the Region of the Al-Ghat Governorate.” Adumatu (36): 7–18.
  • Bretschneider, Joachim, Mohammed Ali Alsalouk, Jan Tavernier, and Philip Van Peer. 2017. “The Saudi-Belgian Research Project in the Al-Ghat Region Preliminary Results of the 2013 - 2014 Campaigns.” Ed. Ali I. Ghabban. Atlal Journal of Saudi Arabian Archaeology 24.