Tamayouz Excellence Award

Tamayouz announces the 2020 laureate of the Special Recognition Award: Professor Alastair Northedge

Professor Alastair Northedge

Tamayouz is delighted to announce the laureate of its Special Recognition Award for 2020 – Paris-based British professor, researcher and archaeologist Alastair Northedge

The 2020 laureate of Tamayouz Excellence Award’s Special Recognition Award is professor Alastair Northedge, a Paris-based British professor, researcher and archaeologist best known for his surveys of Samarra, Iraq. The Special Recognition Award aims to celebrate and recognise contributions towards humanity, architecture and the built environment and is presented annually to individuals or organisations.

Northedge, the third recipient of the award, has, since the early 1970s, been integral to explorative digs of historical sites in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere, publishing his and his team’s findings in titles such as: Excavations at Ana, Qal’a Island (1988), Studies on Roman and Islamic Amman (1993), Entre Amman et Samarra: l’archéologie et les élites au début de
l’Islam (VIIe-IXe siècles)
(2000), as well as the landmark publications, The Historical Topography of Samarra, Samarra Studies I (2005) and the tripartite Archaeological Atlas of Samarra, Samarra Studies II (2015).

Throughout his work, Northedge strives to identify and explain early Islamic architectural complexes, as well as well-preserved urban complexes, highlighting the great material civilisation of Arab-Islamic cultures.

“It is important to exploit Arab-Islamic material civilisation and make it known,” he said. “Too often in recent decades the vision of the Muslim past has been limited to the time of the Prophet, or of the Imams, and the architectural glories of the caliphate are forgotten. This is a heritage question. People need an understanding of their past in order to reinforce their identity.”

Coinciding with his long-term surveys, which have led to the discovery of the Umayyad Citadel in Amman, a comprehensive catalogue of Samarra’s buildings from the Abbasid era, and an exploration of a 10th-11th century settlement in Kazakhstan called Örnek, Northedge grew in his role as lecturer, and eventually professor. He has taught at institutions including Islamic Archaeology at Université de Paris IV, now part of Sorbonne-Université (1991-1999) and Université de Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne) (1999-2017). Northedge retired in 2017, and thereby became Professor Emeritus.

Many of Northedge’s students have been from the Arab world, drawn to his studies and contributions to the fields of Islamic history and archaeology. Northedge’s role as educator (which oftentimes translated to mentor), has impacted not only the study of archaeology of Arab-Islamic civilisations, but today’s generation of Arab historians and archaeologists, now working to push these fields forward with the foundation that Northedge established.

Founding director of Tamayouz Excellence Award, Ahmed Al-Mallak, said: “We are delighted to have professor Alastair Northedge as this year’s laureate. Throughout his career, he was a role model to younger generations of historians and archeologists around the Arab world. He inspired many through his academic research and publications. His surveys have been essential to our understanding of our cities and, in particular, the unmatched work of the Samarra survey which started in 1983, catalogued approximately 7000 historical entities and resulted in two important publications; The Historical Topography of Samarra, Samarra Studies I and the Archaeological Atlas of Samarra, Samarra Studies II (Three parts), Alastair’s work will always be a valuable resource on the study of the city for generations to come.”

Northedge’s writings can be downloaded for free on his academic profile here. Additionally, his studies on Samarra can be found on the British Institute for the Study of Iraq here.

The Tamayouz Special Recognition Award has previously been presented to the Changing Lives Program in Jordan (2019) and the Abdul Latif Al-Jiblawi House in ​Alsamawa (2018). Read more about our previous winners here.


Tamayouz Excellence Award is sponsored by Coventry University, the Iraqi Business Council in Jordan, Kufa – Makiya Charity, Dewan Architects + Engineers, Ayad Al-Tuhafi Architects, Bonair Ltd, British Airways, Final Fix Interiors, JT+Partners, LWK + PARTNERS, and the United Nations Global Compact – Iraq Network.