Focus Yemen: French archaeological missions in Yemen

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Since the establishment of diplomatic relations with Yemen in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given substantial support to archaeological research in the country.

The first mission was created in 1972 and the first excavation started in 1974. A research centre serving inter alia as a logistics base for all archaeological operations was opened in 1982.

Research programmes have focused mainly on the ancient period but have also embraced Islam, prehistory, cave art, anthropology and Yemen’s languages and dialects. One of the most spectacular operations was the restoration of the richly decorated ceiling of the Al Abbas Mosque in Asnâf, carried out in parallel with a training cycle for Yemeni restorers.

Encouraged by the importance of the results and the excellent collaboration, the French Centre for Archaeology and Social Sciences in Sanaa (CEFAS) has published a book which takes stock of 40 years of archaeological research in Yemen. Entitled Yémen, terre d’archéologie, edited by Guillaume Charloux and Jérémie Schiettecatte and published in 2016 by Geuthner & CEFAS, Paris, it contains a richly illustrated description of all the main operations until they were suspended on account of the civil war. Intended to recall the exceptional richness of Yemen’s heritage, it bears witness to the quality of French cooperation with the country and, in doing so, represents a way in which archaeological research can hope to encourage a swift return to peace.

These operations had already been recognised by the Yemeni authorities when they entrusted the first exhibition devoted to ancient Yemen to the Institut du Monde Arabe in 1997.

Image Diaporama - Christian Robin, chercheur français en visite (...)

Christian Robin, chercheur français en visite au village de Maqwala en 1972. Photo : Yémen Terre d’archéologie. Geuthner Cefas, C. Robin

Image Diaporama - La restauratrice Marylène Barret sur le site (...)

La restauratrice Marylène Barret sur le site de la mosquée al-‘Abbas (Asnaf). Photo : C. Robin

Image Diaporama - Le plafond de la mosquée al-‘Abbas (Asnaf) (...)

Le plafond de la mosquée al-‘Abbas (Asnaf) après la restauration de 1996. Photo : C. Robin

Image Diaporama - Le plafond de la mosquée al-‘Abbas (Asnaf) (...)

Le plafond de la mosquée al-‘Abbas (Asnaf) avant la restauration de 1996. Photo : C. Robin

Image Diaporama - Opérations de restauration dans la mosquée (...)

Opérations de restauration dans la mosquée al-‘Abbâs. Dépose d’une poutre décorée du plafond. Photo : Yémen Terre d’archéologie. Geuthner Cefas, B. Maury

Image Diaporama - Rémy Audoin, chercheur français, à al-Lawdh en (...)

Rémy Audoin, chercheur français, à al-Lawdh en 1981. Photo : Yémen Terre d’archéologie. Geuthner Cefas, C. Robin

Image Diaporama - Village moderne de Shabwa sur les ruines du (...)

Village moderne de Shabwa sur les ruines du site antique. Photo : Yémen Terre d’archéologie. Geuthner Cefas, J. Schiettecatte

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