Crossing Ancient Sacred Landscapes: Contacts and Continuities in the Ancient Desert Cults and Beliefs of Northern Arabia and the Arid Southern Levant


Juan Manuel Tebes (British Academy Visiting Fellow)

Michael C.A. Macdonald (Fellow of the British Academy) 


5th - 6th December 2023

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Pusey Lane Oxford, OX1 2LE


Crossing different landscapes and periods has been a major feature of the desert cults and beliefs of the Middle East, from prehistory to modern times. This seminar aims to study the sacred landscapes of northern Arabia and the southern arid margins of the Levant in ancient times throughout the longue durée, adopting an interdisciplinary approach at the intersection between archaeology, history, epigraphy, rock art research, and digital humanities. Scholars will present several case-studies with synchronic and diachronic analyses of the cultic and mortuary traditions of the region from the Neolithic to the Early Islamic period. The seminar is particularly interested in phenomena of cultural continuity of cultic and ritual manifestations throughout large geographical spaces. These cults and beliefs cut across different landscapes and periods. Crossings were synchronic, with religious traditions, oral narratives, cultic material culture, and funerary architecture, crossing diverse geographical landscapes and socio-cultural entities of different complexity. Crossings were also diachronic, with certain features of the material culture and architecture crossing through different temporal periods.


This seminar is particularly timely, as the archaeology of Arabia and the southern Levant, two fields that have developed for a long time in parallel without contact, are increasingly communicating thematically and personally. This Oxford seminar, therefore, aims to provide an opportunity to develop further the dialogue between these fields.


This will be a hybrid seminar, with in-person attendance and stream on Zoom.

In-person and online attendees should register with Ms Lev Cosijns at


Crossing Sacred Landscaped Program (PDF)