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Biography


Professor of Languages and Cultures of Ancient Arabia. My main research topics are :

  • Religious Landscape and Sacred Ground
  • Territories and borders of Arabian tribes in North Arabia Peninsula based on epigraphic documents

My comparative work within Arabic involves ancient Arabic texts and classical Arabic texts. I work on ancient texts dated form pre-Islamic periods, engraved on rocks and blocs (form the 5th century BC to 8th century AD). I am interested in all linguistic aspects of ancient Arabic languages and mainly the input of Archaeology for better understanding of the society. The materials are collected through annual fieldwork in wādī Ramm (Jordan) and in Kilwa (Saudi Arabia). French Ministry for Foreign Affairs support those tow project and provide and funding (since 1994 for wādī Ramm and 2009 for Kilwa).

The fieldwork lead me to the interrogation about the reusing of ancient material, with the help of new technologies. Thus, throw the project StorMer, funded by LabexMed, I explore, with colleagues who comes form different scientific horizon, the traditional rainfall water and the social construction. We try to develop a pilot for improving traditional system as a solution to access to water, in non urban region in Mediterranean basin (https://raft.hypotheses.org/stromer).

The material collected during 20 years are shared in OpenAccess thanks to the collaborative platform (https://mircap.huma-num.fr/) with the financial support for Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region, LabexMed (Aix-Marseille University), IREMAM (UMR 7310) and French Embassy in Saudi Arabia

 Current Research Projects

1. Religious landscape and sacred land, the relationship between territory and worship in Kilwa (Saudi Arabia, 7th - 11th c.) (2008-ongoing)

Kilwa is a relatively dense agglomeration with buildings of varying sizes that seem to be a laura. The complex also includes two buildings of worship: a church and a chapel, and buildings for supplies, as well as gardens. The research, which combines archaeological excavations with geospatial analysis, has revealed a system of natural resource management, which is very effective, to the point of cultivating fruit trees that are difficult to envisage in such an arid environment, such as peach trees.

The presence of this monastery, which is unique in the Arabian Peninsula, is not very surprising, since before the rise of Islam, Christian thought had penetrated the Arabian Peninsula, with clear references to Christian rituals and traditions, especially in the poetry of the Jahiliya. Al-Ḥira, in Iraq, became a centre of monasticism in the East in the 5th and 6th centuries, following the massive arrival of Syrian monks after the death of Justinian I (November 565). Following this event, many Arab tribes converted to Christianity at that time. 

2. Landscape archaeology and social dynamics at Diriyah (Saudi Arabia) (2020-ongoing)

The development of the city of Diriyah as a historical and cultural epicentre of Saudi Arabia requires large-scale urban development, of which cultural structures are the backbone. 

The aim is to study is how peoples developed and exploited the environment around them in the past. This multi-disciplinary project uses prehistoric, classical, and medieval archaeology to study the history of Diriyah.

Open Science and digital humanity: MirCap (2017-2020)

MirCap project is proudly a part of the French national plan for Open Access Science. With the aim of “democratizing access to knowledge, useful for research, training, economy and society”, the MIRCAP project offers a collection of more than 20 years of a large set of data from two major projects in Jordan (Wadi Rum) and Saudi Arabia (Kilwa).

This Project was awarded in the call for projects of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region.

Seeking to bring public-financed research out of the restricted sphere of closed databases, the platform disseminates research funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development in tandem with the Service of Cooperation and Cultural Action and headed by Professor Saba Fares.

The data seeks to tend to the gaps in study of pre-Islamic Arabia and its geo-climatic environment. The information on this platform addresses a number of issues and as such tend to both ecological and historical studies as well as understandings of contemporary social issues such as population displacement. It provides an analysis of ancient texts, language, the change in Arabic dialect in the region. Locating places with an abundance of water provided insight into the changing movements of the ancient nomadic populations. As such, a unique nexus of social sciences versus hard sciences is presented here. However, critically, this platform has been created in order to share this information widely and allow researchers to make use of this data in their own work. It is the main goal of this platform to provide intricate information that can be used internationally by scientists, social scientists, and the curious individual alike. This open-access platform is also geared as a contribution to national French efforts to disseminate information widely for the general public, justly, with no cost.  

This project is the awarded from of the PACA Region’s call for tenders which is part of the 2015-2020 State-Region Plan Contract which “sets the course for State and Regional action for the next six years in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur”. 

 

Recently closed research project (2017-2018)

STORMER : Traditional rainwater harvesting system: a sustainable solution for a non-urban population in the Mediterranean 

This Project was awarded in the call for projects Amorces - Ateliers Thématiques de Recherche Interdisciplinaires by LabexMed, a laboratory of excellence under the A*MIDEX university foundation, which brings together 16 Aix-Marseille mixed research units in the human and social sciences (http://labexmed.fr/fr/project/stormer/ and https://raft.hypotheses.org/stromer).

This project proposes to carry out a collective reflection on traditional hydraulic systems for rainwater harvesting in the Mediterranean basin, one of the regions where the population is most affected by climate change and where natural water resources are lacking (no river, few springs). The project aims to study, with a diachronic and interdisciplinary approach, the resilience of the population around this basin in a context of aridification. Our project focuses on "rain-dependent" regions and populations.

From Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan, we are interested in :

  1. The diversity of the devices, both tangible and intangible, that societies have put in place throughout their history to cope with drought: rainwater harvesting facilities, sacred investments of these facilities and popular beliefs related to the environment (language, religion)
  2. Socio-economic construction around hydraulic installations, delimitation of territories, regulation of access and exploitation.
  3. Conflicts and political issues related to popular hydraulic structures.


Cécile Michel   

Directions of work or proceedings1 document

  • Françoise Briquel Chatonnet, Saba Farès, Brigitte Lion, Cécile Michel. Femmes, cultures et sociétés dans les civilisations méditerranéennes et proches-orientales de l'Antiquité. France. Topoi Orient Occident, pp.332, 2009. ⟨halshs-00444018⟩