Aynuna (Saudi Arabia), 2016



Dates of work: 6 February–5 March and 12 November–15 December 2016


Co-Directors: Prof. Michał Gawlikowski (PCMA University of Warsaw), Dr. Abdullah al-Zahrani and Waleed al Badaywi (Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage)
Deputy Director: Dr. Karol Juchniewicz (PCMA University of Warsaw)
SCTH representative: Abdel Basset al-Sadeq (Tabuk office)
Archaeologists: Marek Truszkowski (PCMA University of Warsaw), Karol Ochnio (independent), Saud al-Amari (Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage)
Geologist: Hubert Kiersnowski (independent)
Glass specialist: Krystyna Gawlikowska, art historian (independent)
Documentalist: Marcin Wagner (Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw)


The Project, which is carried out in collaboration with the Saudi Commission of Tourism and National Heritage, had cleared a large rectangular structure, most probably a khan, and tested three other similar structures, interpreted as caravanserais, at an archaeological site located some 3 km away from the shore. The excavation in 2016 was geared to refining the chronology of the architecture. At least five structures were recorded in a part of the Lower Aynuna site approximately 160 m long by 80 m wide. They were all built on a very similar plan, bearing a definite resemblance to a type of monument usually called a khan, such as were built in later times along the Darb al-Hajj. Only one of them, Khan 1, is complete, nearly square (36 m by 37 m) and centered on a huge courtyard in the middle. Others are fragmentary and seem older. The bulk of the pottery finds—still to be studied in detail—are quite evidently locally made and pre-Islamic date; most are of Nabatean or Roman date. Excavation of two heaps of stones, vaguely round, proved these to be late burials. Several foundations present under the building suggest older structures underneath. Some rooms in three of the older khans were also tested. The results have supported preliminary chronological conclusions opening the way to further research.


The Aynuna Project, which is dedicated to the study of the infrastructure of international trade in the Red Sea area in the Roman period, is financed from a NCN grant UMO-2014/14/M/ HS3/00795).

Text: Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean 26/1


M. Gawlikowski: m.gawlikowski(at)uw.edu.pl