Site custody activism in Jordan: introducing Sela and Alraqeem

Document Type


Publication Date



community archaeology, site custody activism, manufactured heritage, decolonization, archaeology, Jordan, Palestine


The article introduces Sela/Alraqeem, a Jordanian grass-roots organization dedicated to building capacity for local-level engagement with officialdom and professional archaeologists when planning for the protection and development of archaeological sites. The article is based on Øystein LaBianca’s embedding, during two weeks in October 2021, with the Sela/Alraqeem leadership team in the town of Madaba — observing, listening and asking questions to gain an understanding of their vision, mission and way of working. The organization occupies a space between the academy and government officialdom, on the one hand, and the local community on the other. From this space they are challenging the existing order with regard to prevailing notions re the place and role of the local community — as providers, primarily, of cheap, menial labour. Under this old order, no respectable archaeologist would ever deign to produce children’s books about archaeology, mount heritage-themed summer camps for local families, or design and deliver heritage-related vocational training for local young people. But such are precisely the ways of Sela/Alraqeem, and, in the process, they are changing not only archaeological practice in Jordan at every level — that of officialdom, that of the academy and that of local communities — they are also showing the way forward, with a funding model for sustained, local engagement with protection and development of their host country’s rich archaeological heritage.

Journal Title

Levant: The Journal of the Council for British Research in the Levant





First Page


Last Page



First Department

Behavioral Sciences