Oriental Societies & societal self-assertion. Associations, Funds and Societies for the Archaeological Exploration of the "Ancient Near East"

Oriental Societies & societal self-assertion. Associations, Funds and Societies for the Archaeological Exploration of the "Ancient Near East"

Olaf Matthes, Thomas L. Gertzen (DFG-KFG 2615 "Rethinking Oriental Despotism")
DFG-KFG 2615 "Rethinking Oriental Despotism"
Berlin (Online)
Gefördert durch
DFG-KFG 2615 "Rethinking Oriental Despotism"
Vom - Bis
23.02.2022 - 25.02.2022
Thomas Gertzen

With the rapid rise in the economic importance of the bourgeoisie beginning ca 1870, Europe and America witnessed the creation of private associations, funds, and societies to finance archaeological expeditions in the "Lands of the Bible", complementing state-run institutions such as universities, museums, and academies of sciences and the humanities.

The workshop will bring together historians and archaeologists to engage in a truly interdisciplinary discourse.

Oriental Societies & societal self-assertion. Associations, Funds and Societies for the Archaeological Exploration of the "Ancient Near East"

Research into the history of the ancient Near East, from the start, served to reflect „Western“ self-perception and provided the foundation for the projection of Weltanschauung. Against the background of increasing professionalization of archaeological disciplines, the learned societies also enabled laypersons, amateurs, and dilletantes to participate in scholarly debate and to promulgate certain frames of what was perceived as the „Ancient Orient“.

Behind the movement lay different motivations but also respective „national“ cultures in academia. In fact, while economic and strategic interests during this „Age of Empire“ played a pivotal role, the historian should not be blind to the other factors. Given the central importance of the ancient Near East as the „cradle“ of no less than three world religions as well as the earliest states, even empires, in world history, it became a matter of prestige for European and other „Western“ nations to fill their museums with objects from that distant past, which were related to the origins of their „own“ culture – as they perceived it.

Furthermore, the exotic appeal of „the Orient“ must not be forgotten, for it served as means of self-affirmation in contrast to the Oriental „other“, legitimizing the colonial exploitation and semantics of a „white man“s burden“ or a civilizing „mission“, but also defining a cultural responsibility. After the many upheavals caused by World War I, new forms of associations evolved to compensate for the loss of state-funding but also to remedy the loss of, until then, firmly established worldviews.

A systematic and transnational study of these associations – such as Palestine Exploration Fund (founded 1865), Deutscher Palästina-Verein (1877), Egypt Exploration Society (1882), Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft (1898), American Schools of Oriental Research (1900), Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth (1923), Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch Genootschap (1933) – remains a desideratum.

The workshop will bring together – for the first time – historians and archaeologists, along with representatives of other disciplines from different countries, to engage in a truly interdisciplinary discourse, focusing on Oriental Societies as a means of societal self-assertion.


Wednesday, February 23rd

14:15 h Greetings / EVA CANCIK-KIRSCHBAUM, DFG-Kollegforschungsgruppe 2615: „Rethinking Oriental Despotism”

14:30 h THOMAS L. GERTZEN & OLAF MATTHES: Introduction

15:00 h Coffee break

Panel 1: The many facets of an intricate topic

15:15 h LARS PETERSEN (Karlsruhe): Between passion for antiquities and science – European aristocracy and archaeology

15:45 h MARCO BONECHI (Rome): Rise and Fall of the Società Asiatica Italiana

16:15 h FELICITY COBBING (London): The Many Faces of the Palestine Exploration Fund: Hidden and not-so hidden agendas at work in a learned society in the late 19th century

16:45 h Discussion

18:00 h Keynote lecture: CHRISTOPH JAHR (Humboldt Universität Berlin): Europa und der Orient. Bürgerliche Gelehrsamkeit und imperiales Sendungsbewusstsein im langen 19. Jahrhundert

Thursday, February 24th

Panel 2: Discovering the ‘lands of the Bible’ – A vast area of research

10:00 h STEFANIA ERMIDORO (Venice): The Assyrian Exploration Fund and the early exploration of ancient Mesopotamia

10:30 h SEBASTIAAN BERNTSEN (Leiden): Case studies in popularizing the Ancient Near East in the Netherlands: The Sichem Committee, Ex Oriente Lux

11:00 h Discussion

11:15 h Coffee break

11:30 h SILVIA ALAURA (Rome): Oriental Societies and Hittite studies in Victorian England: Tracing the history of an entangled relationship

12:00 h REIKO MAEJIMA (Vienna): Babylon Society as a Japanese Private Association in the Early Twentieth Century

12:30 h Discussion

12:45 h Lunch break

Panel 3: Eternal Egypt?

14:30 h JEAN-MICHEL BRUFFAERTS (Bruxelles), MARLEEN DE MEYER (Leuven & Cairo), JAN VANDERSMISSEN (Ghent): The Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth in Brussels: Neutral little Belgium as the nucleus of Egyptology in the 1920–1940s.

15:00 h STEPHANIE BOONSTRA (London): Fundraising for Amarna: Evidence from the EES archive

15:30 h Discussion

15:45 h Coffee break

Panel 4: Issues and „-isms“

16:00 h PETER ROHRBACHER (Vienna): „The Aryan Orient“: The Research Institute for East and Orient in Vienna 1916–1923

16:15 h THOMAS L. GERTZEN (Berlin): Jews excavating in Egypt? – An Archaeological Endeavour of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens

16:45 h Discussion

Friday, February 25th

Panel 5: Stocktaking and Absences

10:00 h KATALIN KÓTHAY (Budapest): Hungarian archaeological presence (and absence) in Egypt before World War I

10:30 h HANA NAVRATILOVA (Reading/Oxford): Bohemian absences

11:00 h Discussion

11:15 h Coffee break

11:30 h WILLEMIJN WAAL (Leiden): The Netherlands Institute for the Near East: the early years

12:00 h CAROLIEN VAN ZOEST (Leiden): Overview of societies and initiatives in the Netherlands in the 20th century

12:30 h Discussion

12:45 h Lunch break

14:30 h OLAF MATTHES (Hamburg): The German Orient Society as an early example of a public-private partnership

15:00 h Looking back – closing discussion


E-Mail: workshop-oriental-societies@gmx.de