Congratulations to one of our 2022 grantees!

We are thrilled to fund Romolo Loreto in his research. So what is the project?

About the project:

Since 2009 the Italian archaeological mission in Saudi Arabia has been carrying out archaeological research in Dumat al-Jandal. Since 2016 the study has focused on the excavation of the Islamic core of the site, revolving around the ‘Umar mosque and Marid castle. This area mainly reveals archaeological data about the extraordinary transitional period between the Late Antique and early Islamic periods.

This rich oasis in northern Arabia is the only Islamic site of the al-Jawf Saudi region where archaeological activities are ongoing. The Marid castle, the ‘Umar mosque, and the ad-Dira’ district are among the best-preserved archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia. It is vital that they receive suitable archaeological and conservation work.

This rich oasis in northern Arabia joined the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan, and it was later the seat of a Byzantine Christian ruler Ukhaydir ibn Abd al-Malik al Kindi. In 626 CE, Dumat al-Jandal was the site of Prophet Muhammad’s first battle against the Byzantine Empire. The strategy was to attack the caravan trade of Ukhaydir. The textual sources note that king Ukhaydir decorated his castle (the Castle of Marid) with mosaics made by artisans from Byzantium – some of these were found in the 2015 survey of the site.

The latest excavation, with support from The Barakat Trust, will take place outside the ‘Umar mosque, in an area comprised of domestic structures created in the late pre-Islamic period. Excavation will also continue along the western foot of the Marid Castle. These excavations will no doubt shed much-needed light on the period when this oasis town transitioned into the Islamic period.

Lastly, the pottery assemblages dating to the early Islamic period, in the years between the Rashidun caliphs and the Umayyads, show a variety of traditions from Siro-Palestinian styles to the Iraq and Iran glazed ware tradition. In addition, the amount of common ware collected now numbers more the 100,000 units, providing an exciting opportunity to undertake the first study on the Islamic common ware of Saudi Arabia. Until now there has been a total lack of studies about this topic, despite studies devoted to luxury Islamic ware. The aim is to classify for the first time Islamic period unglazed ware from a northern Saudi Arabian archaeological context.

About the grantee:

Romolo Loreto is an archaeologist, and the Associate Professor for the chair of Archaeology and Art History of the Ancient Near East at the Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. Romolo started his professional career as an archaeologist in 2002 by participating in the fieldwork of the Italian archaeological Mission in the Republic of Yemen. Since 2011 Romolo has been the Director of the Italian archaeological Mission in Saudi Arabia, Dumat al-Jandal. In 2013 he also launched the Italian restoration Mission in Saudi Arabia, both under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. In 2013 Romolo also created the University of Naples Archaeological Mission to the Sultanate of Oman, a multidisciplinary project composed of a team of experts and students operating in northern Oman Iron Age coastal environment and inner urban oases.