French archaeology abroad: a driver for developing training and partnerships (December 16, 2016)


Including archaeological activity in the long term and putting forward certain investigative methods in France make French missions abroad genuine benchmarks on a global scale. Recognizing this French experience abroad creates solid and successful partnerships, as it helps to train a new generation of very promising researchers throughout the world.

Training and knowledge-transfer central to renewed partnerships

French archaeological missions play a full role in research training, both on the ground and in laboratories. In 2016, over 800 doctoral and post-doctoral students took part in these missions, over a third of whom were from the host country, without counting the degree- and master’s-level students, who are also well-represented on archaeological sites. Almost 350 work placement or doctoral grants have also been awarded, half of which to local students.

This international aspect of research depends above all on the archaeologists who regularly launch new cooperation projects. French Embassies abroad, who are the intermediaries of the MAEDI, support these initiatives and enable contacts with local universities to be renewed. The work of the embassy allows the leaders of French missions to Djibouti, to take just that example, to give classes at the university in the capital.

The MAEDI makes it possible for several dozen foreign researchers to be received in French institutions each year to perfect their methodological approach in a variety of training programmes, and even to do their entire thesis in France. In 2016, the Minister put in place a new programme: 15 doctoral students from five continents were awarded a grant for a one-month work placement in the best French laboratories.

Knowledge-sharing: an opportunity for cooperation

It is essential to share and promote this very detailed knowledge, which is why French archaeological missions are building strong ties with cultural and scientific institutions in host countries. Members of missions take part in numerous conferences, both nationally and internationally, thus contributing to the recognition and sharing of French research.

Demand from host countries is sometimes the driver for these partnerships. France, for example, is the only foreign country with a research team in North Korea (Archaeological mission in Kaesŏng, led by E. Chabanol), following a request from the National Authority for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (NAPCH). This led to a training programme for two North Korean researchers on another site coordinated by the MAEDI, but also to a major exhibition at the National Folk Museum of Korea (2014).

The activities of these missions thus lead to major cooperation between museums which helps to capture the interest of a wide audience in this discipline. There are many site museums which are created from excavation campaigns, as is the case this year at the Sai Island site in Sudan, where the excavation was taken up by Vincent Francigny. Building this museum which backs on to the excavation house was possible with the support of the French Section of the Sudanese Directorate of Antiquities (SFDAS) and the Qatar Museums Authority (QM). It will help to promote the hugely rich collections inherited from this French mission which began in 1954, helping a strong archaeological tradition to take root in Sudan.


“Autour de la question” programme on Radio France Internationale (RFI)/ Why is Africa’s history depicted in cave paintings? (in French) (beginning after 20 mins 15 seconds, on the “L’archéologue du futur” event) (in French)

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Updated : December 2016

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