Oxford University is to launch a new centre to study the archaeological and cultural heritage of Asia. It is claimed to be the only centre of its kind in Europe.

The university said that although Asia had some of the world’s richest archaeological and artistic forms of heritage, little was known or taught about this period in Britain.

“Asia celebrates a huge diversity of cultures but less research has been conducted into how the different cultures are related. The new Centre will look at how the cultural influences, both within the region and in the wider world beyond, might be connected. The research will not only draw on archaeology but also other disciplines, such as anthropology, art history, linguistics, molecular genetics, the earth sciences and geography,’’ it said.

The Centre, to be based in the School of Archaeology, will offer a new Asia-specific Master’s degree and new courses in the Archaeology of Asia, Chinese Archaeology and the Palaeolithic of Asia.

One of its aims, a spokesman said, would be to increase the School’s academic links with Asian institutions in order to support major research programmes and encourage further research collaborations and student exchanges.

Professor Chris Gosden, a co-director of the Centre, said: “Asian archaeology and heritage studies are enormously important for understanding how the modern world was shaped, and there is a growing need for world-class expertise in this area. The Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art and Culture has been developed to support research and training in various areas of Asian archaeology and heritage studies, and to offer opportunities for scholarly discussion, networking and collaboration.”

The Centre will be formally launched on Thursday with a public lecture by Dame Jessica Rawson, Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology.

One of the co-directors of the Centre is Dr. Michael Petraglia who was recently appointed to the School of Archaeology, in part because of his active field projects in India.