Institute of Archaeology



Making Oasis Civilisation in the Moroccan Sahara.

View of the sunset from the site with some palm trees

The main objective of this 5-year project is to investigate in detail early oasis development and social evolution in the Western Sahara, building on pilot work in the Middle Draa valley, S. Morocco. The project, led by the University of Leicester, is collaborative with the Moroccan heritage agency (INSAP) and has a permit, allowing excavations at multiple sites within the valley. The research programme involves survey, excavation and post-excavation analysis at a series of already identified sites to explore a range of five interlocking research themes: Agriculture and pastoralism; Technology and trade; Sedentary settlement and urbanisation; People: practices and beliefs; People: demographic profile.

Using interdisciplinary and diachronic approaches, the project team will build an integrated picture of a desert society, its people, settlements and burial monuments, technologies, way of life, beliefs and economy, providing a new benchmark for study of indigenous peoples of the Western Sahara.

Read more about the 2024 fieldwork season

Related outputs

  • Fenwick, C. (2020), Early Islamic North Africa: A New Perspective. London.
  • M. Sterry and D.J. Mattingly (eds). (in press, 2020). State Formation and Urbanisation in the Ancient Sahara and beyond. Trans-Saharan Archaeology Volume III.
  • M. Gatto, D.J. Mattingly, N. Ray and M. Sterry. (eds). (2019), Burials, Migration and Identity in the Ancient Sahara and Beyond. Trans-Saharan Archaeology Volume II.
  • Anderson, G., Fenwick, C. and Rosser-Owen, M. (eds.) (2017), The Aghlabids and Their Neighbors: Art and Material Culture in Ninth-century North Africa. Leiden.
  • Fenwick, C. (2013), ‘From Africa to Ifrīqiya: Settlement and Society in Early Medieval North Africa (650–800)’, Al-Masāq 25: 9-33.


  • AHRC Standard Grant