Oxford Brookes University shortlisted for Newton Prize

Monday, 24 August 2020

Newton Prize

A project run by Professor Bill Finlayson from Oxford Brookes University has been shortlisted for the Newton Prize, a £1 million pot of funding set up by the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Bill Finlayson is a Professor of Prehistoric Environment and Society and this project is a collaboration between Oxford Brookes University (also represented by Dr Sam Smith) and Yarmouk University in Jordan, headed up by Dr Sahar al-Khasawneh, with help from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, represented by Ahmad Lash.

The Newton Prize champions the best science and innovation collaborations between the UK and partner countries under the Newton Fund, namely Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, South Africa and Kenya. This year, as well as the £1 million funding, there is an additional £500,000 to be awarded as the ‘Chair’s Prize’.

Much of the best-known cultural heritage of Jordan is from the more recent past, such as Petra, but the work of archaeologists on this project focuses on Jordan’s prehistoric heritage. So far, there has already been a research centre set up and training for the next generation of archaeologists, with nine young Jordanian individuals forming an archaeological masterclass and writing their own history about the nation’s prehistoric heritage.

Archaeological sites found in modern-day Jordan illustrate profound evolutionary advancement, with evidence for early farming and the development of food production technologies, the domestication of animals and plants, and social and ideological innovations to help people live together in large communities. The work being carried out aims to inform people in Jordan, and offer more opportunities for tourists to learn about prehistoric findings by visiting the sites.

Professor Finlayson states: “I am delighted our work has been shortlisted for the Newton Prize, recognising the historical significance of Jordanian prehistoric history. We have already done a lot of work excavating sites; now, working with our Jordanian colleagues we are training the next generation of Jordanian archaeologists and heritage managers, and really want to open up this part of Jordanian history to the world.

“We are working hard to make sure the sites in south Jordan are easily accessible to the wider public and want to ensure these places, in time, become World Heritage Sites. We want to further educate people on the amazing developments that happened in Jordan.”

“Winning the prize would really make substantial difference. As well as all the fantastic work we are currently doing, it would enable us to reach a wider audience, including more filming capabilities and the potentiality of putting all of our resources online, which will inspire more people in Jordan to learn about archaeology, and their fascinating history.”

Other projects shortlisted include one from the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Kenya National Innovation Agency which is improving access to emergency services in Kenya, a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Marmara University in Kenya, looking at the impact of plastic chemicals on humans and animals, and a partnership between Newcastle University and Minia University from Egypt, looking to halt liver cancer by finding biomarkers in the blood.

Applicants will need to show their work addresses one of the following three Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations: Good Health & Wellbeing, Sustainable Cities & Communities, or Gender Equality.

Pictured: Prof Bill Finlayson (4th from right) with archaeological team in Jordan