Saudi Arabia
Al-Kharj – 2016

© Thomas Sagory, Mission Archéologique Franco-Saoudienne d'Al-Kharj.

The excavation campaigns
(by years)


Jérémie Schiettecatte (CNRS, UMR 8167 Orient et Méditerranée).

Abdalaziz al-Ghazzi (King Saud University, Riyadh).

How Eveha Participates

Pottery kiln study.

The fifth excavation season of the Franco-Saudi project at al-Kharj, co-directed by Jérémie Schiettecatte (CNRS) and Abdalaziz al-Hammad (SCTA, Riyadh), took place from 5 January to 5 February 2016. This season had three main objectives:


– Excavation of a Bronze Age necropolis on the site of Ayn al-Dila


– Completion of excavations of the mosque and the surrounding sondages, which explored the Pre-Islamic levels of the site of the town of al-Yamāma


– Excavation of a potter’s workshop dating from the Islamic period, in al-Yamāma


Al-Yamāma is the largest known habitation site in the region of al-Kharj. It is located in the heart of the al-Kharj oasis. The first historical record of the site is in Pre-Islamic Yemeni texts from the 3rd-4th centuries. Later, it is mentioned regularly by Arab and Persian authors such as Baladhuri, Yaqut, Ibn Khordadhbeh and al-Hamdani. The mosque situated in the northern part of the site has been excavated since the first season in 2011. Numerous Islamic and Pre-Islamic buildings have also been excavated.


The potter’s workshop in al-Yamāma


The pottery workshop located in the south-western area of the town of al-Yamāma was identified in 2012 during the second field season, in a trench 10 m long and 1 m wide. Excavation began again in 2016 with three principal aims: to understand the spatial organisation of the workshop, to characterise the local pottery, and to date the period of use of this workshop.


The excavation of this sector was directed by a member of Éveha International and took place from 16 January to 3 February 2016. The initial trench was extended to 14 m in length and 5.5 m in width in order to answer the research questions. The zone was recorded using photogrammetry during the entire excavation period, so as to obtain a comprehensive and evolving vision of the excavations.


The preliminary results of this season are promising. Two well defined spaces have been identified. A courtyard 7 m in length was discovered in the western part of the trench. It contains 5 combustion structures, including 2 tannurs, 1 large pottery kiln, and 1 small pottery kiln. To the east, a building containing at least 4 rooms was uncovered.


The discovery of two different types of pottery kiln is very interesting, as it demonstrates an organisation of work based on the economic activity of the workshop. The kiln measuring 1.2 m long by 0.8 m wide was probably used to fire small ceramic pieces and in small numbers. In contrast, the larger second kiln (3.3 m long, 1.9 m wide) may have been used when there was a greater stock of pottery. The small kiln allowed an order to be completed more quickly.


Considering the large quantity of over-fired pieces and firing errors found around the kilns, it will be possible to characterise the local pottery types. The non-local pottery found in this area, along with a radiocarbon date, suggest the workshop was in use during the Abbasid period. If this is confirmed, the workshop will be the first one from the early Islamic period to have been excavated in Saudi Arabia.