Award for project using cultural heritage to support sustainable development in Jordan04 November 2020
Families in an impoverished region of Jordan will receive further support to turn their rich history into fresh livelihoods after a University of Reading archaeology project won an international research prize.
‘Our past, our future, all together in Faynan’ (OPOF) is seeking to help the local community in Faynan, southern Jordan, boost ecotourism through relatively low-cost investment in its museum, ensuring the economic benefits directly support local families in the long term.
The project was today (Wednesday 4 November) named as a Newton Prize winner, meaning it will receive a share of £1.5 million in funding.
The money will support the development of the ‘Faynan Heritage Women’s Cooperative’, allowing up to 50 women to access training in business development, IT, and craft skills. They will design and produce new products drawing on the designs of the prehistoric artefacts excavated by the University of Reading in Faynan for sale to tourists. A Bedouin cafeteria and on-line sales platform are planned.
“I have worked in Faynan for more than 20 years, benefiting greatly from its remarkable archaeology. I am delighted to now be using our discoveries to empower the local community in these most challenging times" - Professor Steven Mithen, University of Reading
Professor Steven Mithen, Professor of Early Prehistory at the University of Reading, said: “This is a truly collaborative project between the Universities of Reading, Leeds and Queen Mary’s in the UK, the Universities of Jordan and Petra in Jordan, and the Council for Britain Research in the Levant.
“It has brought a range of disciplines, knowledge, and experience together to explore how cultural heritage can be protected and promoted, while also supporting sustainable development in a region of considerable deprivation.
“I have worked in Faynan for more than 20 years, benefiting greatly from its remarkable archaeology. I am delighted to now be using our discoveries to empower the local community in these most challenging times."
The OPOF project team, led by Professor Mithen and Dr Fatima Al-Nammari at the University of Petra, Jordan, have developed the museum exhibits to cover the last 100 years of Jordan’s past, to balance a previous emphasis on the ancient past.
Members of the local community have been enabled to tell their own history in their own way, using a decorative wall hanging.
Six schools are being supported to make children more aware of the region’s heritage, with teacher training to incorporate cultural heritage into the curriculum.
A new Faynan Heritage Trail has been established for tourists and schools, to highlight important archaeological sites.
Ali Hassasseen, Curator of Faynan Museum, said: “This project emphasises the need of preserving the history and culture of Faynan through education and development for visitors, students, and the community. It has increased community belonging to the region and will enable it to become a tourist destination.”
The Newton Prize awards UK and international experts working together to tackle health, climate and development issues in a sustainable way through science, research and innovation. The £1.5 million prize fund was split between six winning projects across five countries, with the Faynan research winning the UK-Jordan category.
The Faynan project is in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities.