From 4 – 6 August 2023, the 56th Seminar for Arabian Studies took place at Moesgaard Museum and Aarhus University, Denmark. This year we celebrated the 70th jubilee of the pioneering Arabian Gulf expeditions (est. 1953-). The seminar was  jointly organized by the department of Archaeology at Aarhus University and the Orient Department at Moesgaard Museum and is under the patronage of the International Association for the Study of Arabia.

This year’s Seminar was generously supported by the C. L. David Foundation, the Carlsberg Foundation, the Frimodt-Heineke Foundation, the Dr M. C. Holsts Foundation, and the Beatrice de Cardi Fund of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

The programme is available here: IASA Seminar Programme 1 Aug rev

Abstracts are available here:

IASA Seminar Abstracts 2023 rev

Special Session 2023 Abstracts. docx

The Seminar for Arabian Studies is the only annual international forum for the presentation of the latest academic research on the Arabian Peninsula. Topics covered include archaeology, history, epigraphy, languages, literature, art, culture, ethnography, and geography from the beginnings to the present or, in the case of political and social history, to the end of the Ottoman Empire (1922).

Historically, the Seminar has had an exemplary track record of timely publication of its proceedings and also this year’s papers will after peer-review be eligible for publication in the 54th Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies (2024). Approximately 75 papers were delivered during the conference ranging from the Paleo/Neo-lithic of the Arabian Peninsula to early Islamic times. On 5th August, 11 of these papers were delivered in a special session, Bronze Age Arabia – 70 years on…  – What we have learned, and what we still don’t know?, in which invited international experts treated the latest research on Bronze Age Arabia and explore new directions.

On 4th August, Adrian G. Parker Professor in Geography at Oxford Brookes University,  gave the keynote Beatrice de Cardi Lecture (sponsored by the Society of Antiquaries, London). The title was Arabian Palaeoenvironments and climate change during the Arabian Bronze Age (3500-1000 BC). The keynote lecture was followed by a vine party also at Moesgaard Museum. The vine party was a celebration of the 70th jubilee Moesgaard Museum and Aarhus University pioneering expeditions to Bahrain and was attended by a number of long retired senior pioneers of the first expeditions (1953-1978).

A brief history of the Seminar for Arabian Studies

The Seminar began as an informal study group set up in 1968 at the time of the first official British archaeological survey in Saudi Arabia, led by Peter Parr of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London. The purpose of the group was to promote archaeological research in the Arabian Peninsula and, after an initial meeting, the group formed itself into the Arabia Society, with John Dayton as Honorary Secretary.

After two relatively small conferences in 1969 and another two in 1970, the Seminar for Arabian Studies, as it had now become, settled into a pattern of annual conferences, of ever increasing size, in 1971, 1972, and 1973. From 1974 onwards, the present pattern had been established of a three-day conference in July, with the publication of its Proceedings in time for the conference of the following year. For many years, the conference circulated between London, Oxford, and Cambridge with occasional visits to Durham, Edinburgh and Manchester. From 2002 to 2018 it was hosted in London by the British Museum. In 2019 the Seminar took place in Leiden, Netherlands and in 2020 will be held in Cordoba, Spain.

Summaries of some of the papers presented at the first Seminar and a list of those given at the second (in January and June 1969 respectively) were published in the Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London 8-9, 1968-1969: 243-258. These were later republished, together with papers from the third to sixth Seminars (the 3rd Seminar held in January 1970, the 4th in June 1970, the 5th in September 1971, and the 6th in September 1972) in a cumulative volume together with the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies vol. 1-3 in 1973. This was in addition to the separate volumes of PSAS 1 (1971), 2 (1972) and 3 (1973).

From volume 1 (1971), containing the papers from the fourth Seminar held in Cambridge in June 1970, the Proceedings have been published each year and 2020 saw volume 50, containing the papers from the 53rd Seminar held in the University of Leiden in 2019.

Special Sessions

As well as the wide range of subjects covered in its main sessions, the Seminar also offers the opportunity for more detailed discussion of a particular area of research by invited speakers in a Special Session, lasting either half a day or a full day. The papers read at a Special Session will be considered for publication either in the Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies (PSAS) or in a separate volume as a Supplement to PSAS.

Past Special Sessions:

2017: Languages, scripts and their uses in ancient North Arabia (published in a Supplement to PSAS 48, 2018).
2016: Textiles and personal adornment in the Arabian Peninsula (published in PSAS 47, 2017).
2013: Languages of Southern Arabia (published in a Supplement to PSAS 44, 2014).
2012: Museums in Arabia (not published).
2011: The Nabataeans in Focus: Current archaeological research at Petra (published in a Supplement to PSAS 42, 2012).
2009: The development of Arabic as a written language (published in a Supplement to PSAS 40, 2010).
2007: Defining the Palaeolithic of Arabia (a summary of the discussion was published in PSAS 38, 2008 and it was developed in M D Petraglia and J I Rose (eds), The Evolution of Human Populations in Arabia, 2010)

Focus Sessions

These consist of at least four papers with the explicit purpose of promoting discussion on work currently in progress, the current state of scholarship on the topic, the application of new approaches, etc. Focus Sessions are held either within the main programme of the Seminar or separately in parallel with it.

Past Focus Sessions:

2015: Beyond the ‘Rose-red’ city: the hinterland of Petra and Nabataean rural sites (partly published in PSAS 46, 2016).
2010: Saudi Arabia (published in PSAS 41, 2011).
2009: Current Fieldwork in Qatar (published in PSAS 40, 2010).