Near Eastern Archeology

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The Near East Archeology is a scientific discipline that is based on archaeological sources and deals with the most comprehensive possible research into the ancient Orient . In terms of research methodology, it is close to prehistory and early history and covers a period of roughly 10,000 years, which ends at the latest with the spread of Islam in the 7th century. It is closely related to the Ancient Near Eastern Studies linked and is in the English language often with that of the Ancient Near Eastern Studies summarized. Today she deals with all archaeologically tangible traces of the ancient Orient, topography, architecture, art and everyday life.

Near Eastern archeology emerged mainly from the middle of the 19th century, initially as a treasure hunt on behalf of the major European museums. At the end of the 19th century, however, in a coevolution with ancient oriental studies, a scientific discipline developed that was also located in scientific institutions and was initially primarily involved in debates with theology . Especially after the two world wars there was extensive research work in the Middle East, which went hand in hand with refining methods and new theoretical approaches. Today, the aspect of saving cultural heritage plays a major role, while archaeological field research is increasingly exposed to problems due to a lack of financial support and political difficulties in the core research area, so that today research is mainly carried out in more peripheral regions.

At German universities, Near Eastern archeology has been firmly integrated into the subject canon since 1948, so that the subject can now be studied at nine universities in Germany. The most important research institution is the German Archaeological Institute , which has its own department for the Middle East. In addition, the German Research Foundation and the German Orient Society are particularly active in the financing of corresponding research projects. In 1982, the first and so far only chair for Near Eastern Archeology was established at the University of Bern in Switzerland. Furthermore, the Swiss Society for Oriental Classics conducts research on the ancient Orient.

Since in the research area of ​​Near East Archeology with the transition to sedentarism and food production , the emergence of cities and states and the emergence of writing, several remarkable developmental steps of mankind took place for the first time worldwide, the Near East Archeology sometimes also describes itself as the "archeology of the beginnings".

Research subject

Research room

The Near East Archeology researches the history of the ancient Near East together with the Ancient Near East. This is examined by the Near East Archeology today especially under cultural , economic and social-historical questions, while the preoccupation with the art of the Near East has lost importance in the last 30 years, although it is still practiced. With regard to the definition of the geographical and temporal area to be examined, there is no uniform doctrine.

Generally, Mesopotamia (especially Iraq and parts of Syria ) is seen as the core area of ​​work of the subject, and has also been an area of ​​interest , at the latest since the excavations in Troy that began around the turn of the century, and especially in Hattuša , Anatolia , which had brought about the high culture of the Hittites . It is also undisputed that the eastern Mediterranean coast and Jordan as well as Iran belong to the subject. The (minimal) research area recognized by all specialist representatives therefore extends from the Black Sea , Caucasus and Caspian Sea in the north to the northern edge of the Syrian-Arabian desert in the south and from the eastern coasts of the Aegean and Mediterranean in the west to the eastern edge of the Iranian highlands . In particular, the eastern edge of the research area is extended by some archaeologists from the Near East to the Middle East (around Afghanistan and West Pakistan ) to include the Indus culture . In the south, the entire Arabian Peninsula ( Saudi Arabia , Yemen , Oman ) including the countries bordering the Gulf ( United Arab Emirates , Bahrain , Qatar ) is often included in the research area; some archaeologists also extend the research area to the north to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and to the west to Cyprus . The areas between the Bosporus and Sinai Peninsula in the west and the Indus Valley in the east are therefore given as the maximum extent of the research area .

The reason for these differences in the definition of geographic space is the result of research over the last few decades, which has shown that the interactions between the core areas of the ancient Orient and its peripheral and neighboring areas were often different over the centuries. That is why it was argued that the ancient Orient should not be understood as a clearly defined area. Instead, the Middle East archeology is dealing with a structure of regions that contributed to the phenomenon of Middle East culture and whose boundaries have shifted over the course of time.

Palestine occupies a special position , the study of which is carried out as the land of the Bible in a separate discipline, biblical archeology . Their position in relation to Near Eastern archeology has not been finally clarified. Some archaeologists see it as a sub-discipline of Near Eastern archeology, while other scholars regard it as an independent discipline alongside Near Eastern archeology. Depending on this, the State of Israel, including the Palestinian autonomous regions , are or are not included in the research area of ​​Near Eastern Archeology.

There are also different views regarding the period under investigation, so in 1971 Anton Moortgat defined the last three millennia BC as the subject of Near Eastern archeology. Usually one let the explored period end with the wars of Alexander against the Achaemenid Empire (330–323 BC). A growing minority among the Near Eastern archaeologists did not end the research period until around 650 AD with the fall of the Sassanid Empire as part of the Islamic expansion .

With regard to the lower time limit, there has been a clear shift since the 1970s. While Moortgat only considered the period from which written sources exist (i.e. from approx. 3,000 BC) as an object of Near Eastern archeology and ascribed earlier times to prehistory , the period researched has now been extended to the ceramic Neolithic . A few archaeologists also see themselves responsible for the two million year period of the Paleolithic . For the research period of the Near East Archeology, depending on the respective region, around 12,000 before today as the starting point and either 330–323 BC are generally used today . Or the 7th century AD as the end point.



The cultures of the ancient Orient were never completely forgotten, which is mainly due to the mention of many names in the Old Testament of the Bible and the mention by ancient writers such as Herodotus and Diodorus . Its ruins were therefore already destinations of occidental travelers in the Middle Ages and early modern times, who mention them in their travel reports. Benjamin von Tudela , for example, reports on the remains of Babylon , which he visited as part of his trip to Asia (1160–1173). Further reports come from Benjamin Rauwolff , who also visited Babylon in 1574, and from Pietro della Valle , who traveled to Mesopotamia, Persia and India from 1614 to 1626. Between 1761 and 1767, Carsten Niebuhr made copies of the cuneiform inscriptions from Persepolis , which Georg Friedrich Grotefend later used as the basis for deciphering the cuneiform script .


Botta's excavation plan in Khorsabad

Near Eastern archeology as a science developed from 1842, when under Sir Austen Henry Layard, especially in Nimrud (Kalḫu), where, in addition to large buildings, many alabaster reliefs and monumental figures (including the winged lion ) were found, as well as in Ninive (Kujundschik), early excavations took place where over 25,000 clay tablets were found distributed throughout the city. A year later Paul-Émile Botta began his excavations in Khorsabad (Dur Šarrukīn), where he came across several large reliefs. 1849 Briton identified William Kennett Loftus with Ur and Uruk (now Warka) the main localities southern Mesopotamia. This early research activity was in the general framework of early European colonialism , through which Europeans came into contact with foreign and ancient cultures. As a result, the knowledge about the ancient Orient, which was previously hardly known, expanded suddenly. Nevertheless, the data produced by the early excavators were extremely poor, as the activity mainly concentrated on the search for aesthetic and spectacular finds, while socio-economic data in particular were destroyed by the inadequate excavation technology. Excavations of this time were particularly organized by the great museums of Europe, which tried to outdo each other with spectacular exhibits. The largest and most famous of these museums are the Louvre , the British Museum and the Berlin museums .

Schliemann's wife Sophia wears gold jewelry that was found during her husband's excavations in Hisarlik (Troy)

Probably the most famous find of this time was the " Treasure of Priam " found by Heinrich Schliemann in 1873 during excavations on Tell Hisarlik, which was identified with Troy . In Mesopotamia, the palaces of the Assyrian kings were discovered and then interpreted against the background of the Old Testament . Beyond the few excavated sites, however, the area of ​​the Ancient Orient remained untouched and therefore unknown.

Before 1880 there was no serious attempt to write a history of the Ancient Orient, with the exception of the Palestine region. Stories of Israel such as Heinrich Ewald's Introduction to the History of the People of Israel from 1864 or Julius Wellhausen's History of Israel from 1883, however, obtained their sources exclusively from the source-critical examination of biblical texts and the analysis of mythical and historical traditions, while archaeological results, for example from Charles Warren's excavations in Jerusalem or Flinders Petrie's work in Tell el-Hesi were consistently disregarded.

Archeology itself was particularly determined by the then popular line of thought evolutionism . This becomes clear, for example, with Ernest Renan , who assumed three ethno-cultural layers for the ancient Orient (similar to the common European division into "savages", "barbarians", "civilization"):

  1. Primitive (geologically rather than historically tangible)
  2. Kamites and Altaians (rich in material, but no spiritual achievements)
  3. Aryans and Semites (endowed with spiritual values)

Shaping science

Remains of the Ištar Gate after the Germans' excavation work (1932)

In the last two decades of the 19th century there was an expansion of perspective, which until now has been heavily focused on Assyrian and Babylonian history. The French Jacques de Morgan began to research the Elamans in Susa from 1884 , while in southern Mesopotamia during large excavations in Tello (Girsu) by Ernest de Sarzec (from 1877) and in Nippur by the German-American Hermann Hilprecht (from 1888) the cultural ones Testimonies of the Sumerians were discovered. For the first time, these excavations also had the aim of uncovering larger building connections and the recovery of cuneiform clay tablets. Subsequently, in the search for the Israelites, the remains of Philistines and Canaanites were identified in Palestine, finally the Hittites in 1906 by Hugo Winckler in Boğazköy (Hattuša). Excavations in Byblos by Ernest Renan , in Zincirli ( Sam'al ) by Carl Humann and in Tell Halaf (Guzana) by Max von Oppenheim led to the realization that the ancient oriental cultures were closely intertwined. The work in Tell Halaf brought to light for the first time clearly prehistoric finds with the Halaf pottery , to which the even older pottery finds from Samarra joined a short time later . During a smaller campaign in Fāra (Šuruppak), Sumerian clay tablets were also discovered in 1903.

At the same time, the Germans, as political and military partners of the Ottoman Empire , began to get involved in the archeology of the Middle East. Their influence first had an impact on ancient oriental studies , where German researchers had been involved since the 1870s, at the end of the century, especially after the state visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II in Jerusalem and Constantinople , but also in archeology. While particular Eberhard Schrader and his team ahead brought the cuneiform grammar, lexicography and philology, led the work of Robert Koldewey in Babylon (1899-1917), where he next to the Ishtar Gate , the Processional Way and the Nebuchadnezzar also foundations of -Palast Etemenanki found , and his original colleague Walter Andrae in Aššur (1903-1914) to a fundamental change in the methodology and goals of the excavations. Both introduced the stratigraphic excavation method applied by Flinders Petrie in Tell el-Hesi from 1890 onwards, based on the theoretical considerations of Augustus Pitt River and the results of Schliemann in Troy, for the first time in the Middle East. For the first time, Middle Eastern archeology was able to provide clearly defined data on history in terms of space and time. Both Koldewey and Andrae did not allow philologists to participate directly in their excavations; however, they used the translations of inscriptions to date buildings and their individual construction phases.

In the course of the 19th century, in addition to the museums, scientific societies developed, dedicated to researching the ancient Orient and disseminating the knowledge gained in this way. The forerunners here include the Vorderasiatische Gesellschaft (1896), the German Orient Society (1898) and the American Schools of Oriental Research (1900). In the 1930s, existing research societies established departments for the study of the ancient Orient.

In the theory of archeology, evolutionism has been replaced by a positivist historiography and ethnography . This went hand in hand, also due to the numerous new discoveries and findings, the fundamental renunciation of general models in favor of the individual investigation of individual cultures , whereby the concept of culture also experienced a fundamental change in meaning. While it was previously mostly used in connection with high literature and historiography, it now referred to technical and linguistic units. In Germany, the concept of the cultural area , defined by the unity of race, people and culture, was favored, which now also allowed first attempts at reconstructing migrations. In the USA, on the other hand, Franz Boas in particular rejected a racial, geographical or economic definition of culture and instead emphasized a particularist approach. This was reflected in the Anglo-American specialist literature, which also anticipated assumptions about race and milieu, but was always followed by a detailed description of culture (especially iconography and artefacts ) and political history. In Germany, on the other hand, there was a break between ancient oriental studies and archeology when philologists such as Fritz Hommel (1885) and Hugo Winckler (1892) wrote their historical works - both under the title History of Babylonia and Assyria - based solely on the highly written products of literature and culture Established religion in order to separate the historiography of the ancient Orient from archeology. Eduard Meyer's attempt to write a history of antiquity (1884), in which the ancient oriental history was to be connected with that of classical antiquity , also belongs in this context .

At the turn of the century, there were violent disputes about Hugo Winckler's pan-Babylonian theory and, at the same time, the Babel-Bible dispute triggered by Friedrich Delitzsch , which was mainly fought out between ancient oriental studies and biblical theology. As a result, there was a break between theology and the ancient sciences of the ancient Orient. Archibald Sayce , for example, contrasts the “unsecured and preconceived conclusions of literary and source criticism” with the “value of objective and conclusive monuments”. On the other hand, in the fight against the Wellhausen theory, at most isolated finds of an epigraphic nature were taken into account. In the investigations into the relationship between Sumerians and Semites that were emerging at the time, research, especially Eduard Meyer (1906), concentrated on linguistic results, while differences in material culture between the two population groups received at most peripheral consideration.

Between the world wars

After the First World War, a whole series of large excavations began in Ur and Tall al-Uhaymir (Kiš). In a deep section in Uruk, the sequence of layers up to the Obed period was examined, which together with a further deep section in Tepe Gawra led to the creation of the first reliable period sequence for all of Mesopotamia. Cuneiform tablets were found in Uruk which, together with other finds from Fāra and Ǧemdet Nasr, led to the backdating of writing development to the 4th millennium. With the aim of improving knowledge of the second millennium and clarifying the sequence of periods up to the 6th millennium, Seton Lloyd carried out five excavation campaigns between 1940 and 1949 together with Faid Safar , Taha Baqir and Mohammad Ali Mustafa . Excavations in Jorgan Tepe (Nuzi) by Edward Chiera uncovered another written province that was previously unknown with the discovery of a clay tablet archive. Henri Frankfort first implemented the idea of ​​regional research when he carried out excavations in Tell Asmar , Tutub (Hafaǧi), Tell Agrab and Iščali (Neribtum) in the Dijala area from the end of the 1920s . Outside of Mesopotamia, particularly Iran was explored, where in Persepolis and Pasargadae mainly the remains of the Achaemenids were examined, while older periods in Tepe Giyan , Tepe Hissar and Tepe Sialk were the aim of the work. From the 1930s on, more intensive work began in Syria and Turkey, where excavations took place in Tell Hariri (Mari), Byblos, Raʾs Šamra (Ugarit), Tell Açana (Alalaḫ), Alişar Hüyük and Boğazköy. Ceramic finds from Mersin enabled a comparison with the period sequence of Uruks over long distances.

Since the time between the world wars, Near Eastern archeology has established itself as a university subject. Academic issues then came to the fore during excavations, which meant that previously unknown regions were given more consideration.

The separation between archeology and philology worsened between 1920 and 1950, with the historiography of the ancient Orient being primarily attributed to the field of competence of philologists. Only a few scholars tried to unite both directions, the most prominent among them is Albrecht Alt , whose "territorial history" dealt with Israelite settlements in Palestine and combined knowledge from texts and archeology.

Two new methods emerged within archeology. On the one hand, the use of local workers in particular meant that the Wheeler-Kenyon method was increasingly used, on the other hand, surveys made it possible for the first time to record and date hundreds of sites without them having to be excavated. Nelson Glueck (1934/35) in particular carried out extensive, albeit rough, surveys in Upper Mesopotamia and Transjordan.

Outside of Palestine, the historical interpretation of archaeological data took its own way. The stratigraphic examination of the ceramics and artefacts made it possible for the first time to understand their technical and stylistic development. The stylistic analysis of ceramics began to summarize similar types of ceramics in material cultures , which were then identified with ethnic groups and used to explain change as migration. At the same time, this meant a return to the ideas of evolutionism, especially among Soviet archaeologists, but also with Gordon Childe , who coined the terms Neolithic Revolution and Urban Revolution for the most important historical phenomena . Against this background, there were further innovations in archeology, such as the excavation of large cities (especially Ur , Uruk , Mari and Ugarit ), the consideration of the results of paleobotany and paleozoology and the investigation of expansion tendencies.

The resulting new potentials of archeology were initially not taken into account in the text-oriented historiography, especially of the Germans by Wolfram von Soden . The investigation of the Ancient Orient was done from a dedicated Eurocentric perspective. Paul Koschaker , Julius Lautner and Mariano San Nicolò in particular applied concepts from Romance studies to the study of cuneiform texts. In the same style, Fritz Moritz Heichelheim (1938) applied modern concepts such as prices, credit and market economy to the economics of the ancient Orient in his ancient economic history. Max Weber noted in 1922, for example, that the despotic Old Orient did not know any “city”, as there was no democracy, for example, that made up the ancient cities, especially the Greek polis. A major exception is the work Sumerische Tempelstadt by Anna Schneider , published in 1920 , which used models of an Indian village to investigate ancient oriental places, but was not considered in the other specialist literature with regard to its content. This Eurocentric historiography left the investigation of material culture to archeology and prehistory, thereby creating a clear separation between history and prehistory, which was based on the existence of written tradition.

Multipolarism and Neo-Evolutionism

In the 1950s and 1960s, in the context of decolonization , there were again changes in the ancient studies of the Orient. However, this set in only very gradually, as the two great, collective historical works of the 1960s show: the second edition of the Cambridge Ancient History and the Fischer Weltgeschichte - both exclusive products of philology, the level of knowledge of which depends on the availability of appropriate text sources and is therefore inevitably fragmentary and is episodic. Also the most important monographs of this time John Anthony Brinkmann's A political history of post-kassite Babylonia 1158 - 722 b. C. (1968) and Evelyn Klengel-Brandt (from 1965) were still in the old tradition.

The change of mind came from Western scholars, not least because the scholars of the Middle Eastern states, which have now become independent, were less interested in the history of their country before the Islamic period and generally pursued more tourist and political goals. Marxism made an important contribution here , and in its critical form in the 1960s it was also very popular outside the Eastern Bloc. It provided the necessary conceptual tools to investigate socio-economic relationships and their changes over the course of history. Critical Marxists in particular developed new economic models that now also fit historical data. In addition, other non-Eurocentric approaches such as Karl Polanyi's economics and Marcel Mauss ' exchange theory were introduced during the 1960s . However, they could not prevail. More recent anthropology , on the other hand, found particular application in the study of nomadism, for example in John Tracy Luke's work on nomadic ranching tribes by Mari and in Michael B. Rowton's articles on nomadism in the ancient Orient in general.

This transition in historiography from a purely political historiography to a more comprehensive history meant that the results of archeology were now also given more consideration. In the post-war period, archeology, for its part, was primarily concerned with examining neo-evolutionist theses. Robert John Braidwood (1974) tried to prove Childes' theory of a Neolithic revolution with his excavations in Qal'at Jarmo . While it became clear that the assumption that a food-producing way of life, permanent sedentariness and ceramic production had arisen at the same time was beginning to dissolve, Braidwood confirmed the revolutionary character of the change and gave the successive phases accordingly with names. Braidwood, who assumed that climatic factors were not a cause of change (which could be refuted by more recent findings in the 1980s), did not reach the interface between food-appropriating and food-producing economy with his excavations. This only succeeded with the excavations in Cayönü between 1964 and 1991, since 1986 under the direction of Mehmet Özdogan . With the intention of proving Childe's theory of the urban revolution as well as Karl August Wittfogel's concept of hydraulic societies , Robert MacCormick Adams carried out several surveys in Mesopotamia together with Hans J. Nissen from 1965 onwards. From the 1960s onwards, geographic models came into use, especially the model of the central location by Walter Christaller , which offered further points of contact between archeology and history.

From the 1960s onwards, the New Archeology approach, as an ahistorical approach, found a lot of resonance in English-language literature , while in Germany it was only marginally discussed. Based on the archaeologists at the University of Chicago , natural scientific methods also gained in importance for Near Eastern archeology, while the ecological and regional approach also received increasing attention. This happened at the same time as the growing interest of ancient oriental studies as a philological discipline in the countless cuneiform business texts. In 1968, for example, the works Palmeraies et cultures de l'Eanna d'Uruk (559 - 520) by Denise Cocquerillat and Studies in the ancient history of Northern Iraq by David Oates , which used textual as well as archaeological and scientific results to create a writing territorial and socio-economic history.

Other ancient orientalists, on the other hand, refused to consider archaeological data. Both the Thoughts on Palace and Temple published by Adolf Leo Oppenheim in 1967 and Ignace Gelbs on the Oikoswirtschaft were based exclusively on text sources. In the same year, Igor Michailowitsch Djakonow tried to establish links with the results of Soviet research. Overall, attempts at cooperation between archaeologists and philologists in the 1960s and 1970s remained the exception.

In biblical archeology, meanwhile, the old conflict between biblical theology and archeology was rekindled when William Foxwell Albright advanced arguments against the German exegetes Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth that Sayce had made to Wellhausen half a century earlier. In addition, it was not until 1977 that Fritz W. Kramer's statement that material cultures cannot be equated with historical peoples, that the old goal of identifying biblical names with archaeological cultures was gradually abandoned. However, the meticulous attention that biblical archeology paid to the links between text and finds resulted in Israeli historiography having an integrated view of the various types of data from the outset. For this reason, the reconstruction of the history of Israel is arguably the most advanced in the entire Middle East.

Newer trends

From the mid-1970s onwards, new directions emerged in Near Eastern archeology. These include multipolarism , which, in contrast to evolutionism, emphasizes the plurality of possible processes of change and the interactions between centers and periphery. For example, the idea of ​​an urban revolution as a turning point in world history was replaced by a plurality of individual cases, which are largely viewed as original in order to avoid touches of diffusionism and hierarchy with their implication of the existence of a single center. In a similar way, the concept of the Neolithic Revolution was replaced by a procedural approach.

In addition, topics such as unequal exchange, which had already been formulated in the context of Marxism since the 1960s, in their de-ideologized form of the world system (e.g. with Guillermo Algaze ), frontier studies or the center-periphery model also found their way into the discussions of Near Eastern Archeology. These approaches, which emphasize the existence of several centers, were promoted by the discovery of high cultures in more marginal regions, such as Ebla . At the same time, the research interest changed, which was no longer limited to monumental buildings or cities, but also focused on simple houses and villages in the sense of a more comprehensive and complex historiography.

The fall of the Soviet Union was accompanied by a decline in ideologies, which in the case of some experts also implied an implicit return to New Archeology. For example, models were created and checked using computer simulations, but they do not claim to be a historical reconstruction. Norman Yoffee and Joseph A. Tainter , for example, employed more recent geographical models as well as systemic considerations on complexity and collapse last but not least, military activities began to irreversibly destroy the historical landscape. The development of new high-tech methods, especially ground remote sensing, made it possible to back up a lot of basic data quickly and effectively. Since the turn of the millennium, there have been hardly any excavations in Mesopotamia (ie Iraq), the actual core area of ​​Near Eastern archeology, due to the global political situation, while more attention is paid to the previous periphery.

Data basis

Since the subject area of ​​Near Eastern archeology begins today with the pre-ceramic Neolithic, there are without exception written evidence as sources for a period of around 6,000 years. But even after the invention of writing, it has only a very limited historical value over a period of several centuries, regardless of the fact that it was not used in all regions of the ancient Orient at the same time. For the greater part of the explored area, the Near East Archeology thus refers to material remains, i.e. finds and findings . Since the Middle East archeology is very interested in settlement research, building structures and architectural remains from all times are particularly important. Great importance is also attached to ceramics, as it is used to date findings and, to a certain extent, to assign cultures. From around 3,500 onwards, various pictorial works appeared in the ancient Orient, which are roughly subdivided into glyptics , flat-screen and circular , with the former receiving special attention. The glyptic occupies this central position, since seals were in use in large numbers in all times and areas of the ancient Orient, while flat and round images are more of a temporary local appearance. With the help of the glyptic, it is not only possible to ascribe findings to individual cultures, but also to trace the history of styles and motifs of the ancient Orient, as well as to conduct religious-historical studies on the basis of the representations. From the 3rd millennium BC Written sources are increasingly available for research into the history of the ancient Orient. Particular importance is attached to the core area of ​​the subject, Mesopotamia, which has had a continuous and rich written tradition since the archaic texts from Uruk . Up until the middle of the 3rd millennium, it was almost exclusively a matter of recording economic conditions, which even in later times still accounted for 90% of the traditional text corpus and whose context for the earlier times can no longer be reconstructed today. There are also written formulas of consecration from a very early period. It was not until around 2,500 that writing was also used to record complex, historical facts, even if this early writing is barely legible for us. However, ancient oriental studies as a neighboring discipline of Near Eastern archeology are primarily concerned with researching the written remains. Since, unlike classical antiquity, there is no three-way division of the disciplines into archeology, philology and history, ancient oriental studies and Near Eastern archeology undertake the reconstruction of history.

Conceptual basics

Since the discussion of basic questions and foundations in the Near East Archeology is mainly limited to the methodology of the excavations, there is almost no systematic definition of the Near East Archeology as a science, with the result that its conceptual bases can only be roughly outlined. The last such scientific classification of Near Eastern archeology can be found in the most recent introduction to the subject from 1971 and is now considered largely out of date. Moortgat, who himself had studied classical archeology , understood in this work the Middle East archeology as the science of the ancient art monuments of the Middle East, that is, as the art history of the Old East, with which he placed the subject between iconography and style analysis . Today, ancient oriental art is still or again intensely discussed, as pictorial works represent a significant part of the source material. On the one hand, for example with Rainer Maria Czichon, art serves as a starting point for art-historical considerations, while on the other hand, the extent to which the concept “art “Can be applied to the ancient Orient at all. Hartmut Kühne, who only uses the term art for the late Uruk period , is concerned with the latter , since the works of art of this time would represent a “dialectical leap” compared to the more sporadic evidence of artistic design. Kühne places the art-historical approach of Near Eastern archeology into iconology in the sense of Erwin Panofsky . Despite this renewed occupation with pictorial works, the focus of the research is on social and economic-historical circumstances, an international tendency that Hans J. Nissen made popular in Germany after he took over Moortgate's chair in 1971. In its theoretical-methodological orientation, Near Eastern Archeology corresponds to the subject of prehistory and early history with the exception of the areas of art and building research. Efforts to expand the methodological spectrum led to the introduction of analogical interpretation , which is mainly used in Germany by Peter Pfälzner , who tries to interpret Near Eastern findings on the basis of ethnoarchaeological observations in West Africa.

Situation of science in German, Dutch and English-speaking countries

Although the Germans in particular had been heavily involved in research into the ancient Orient since the end of the 19th century, the first professorship was not established for Ernst Herzfeld in Berlin until 1918 , followed in 1937 by Eckhard Unger ; this has been continued since 1948 by the professor of Near Eastern Archeology at the Free University of Berlin with Anton Moortgat. The second professorship was established in 1964 at the University of Munich in Munich.

Today the subject is represented at nine universities in Germany:

In addition, since 2009 there has been a professorship for the archeology of ancient Mediterranean cultures and their relationships with the Near Eastern-Egyptian world at the University of Konstanz , currently held by the Near Eastern archaeologist Stefan R. Hauser .

In addition to the universities, the German Archaeological Institute with its Orient Department is the most important institution for researching the Middle East with projects in all Middle Eastern countries. The main financiers of such projects are the German Research Foundation and especially the German Orient Society , although the latter has not carried out any excavation projects on its own since the Second World War and is also heavily integrated into ancient oriental studies.

In Austria, the subject is taught and researched at the Institute for Ancient History and Ancient Near Eastern Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Archeology at the University of Innsbruck without a professorship.

In Switzerland, Near Eastern Archeology is represented by Mirko Novák at the Institute for Archaeological Sciences, Department for Near Eastern Archeology , University of Bern . Research on the ancient Orient is also carried out by the Swiss Society for Oriental Antiquities .

In the Netherlands there are two places where you can study Near Eastern Archeology in English:

The Near East Archeology is much better established in the USA , where the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) has been promoting corresponding projects since 1900 . Corresponding specialist representatives can be found at many universities, often in institutes for ancient history, anthropology or theology. Major research projects are mainly carried out by the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago , but the universities of the Ivy League usually also offer corresponding courses. At the same time, the situation is developing in Great Britain, where the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the University College London in particular offer corresponding degrees.


Introductions, overviews

History of science

  • Ludmila Hanisch: The successors of the exegetes. German-language exploration of the Middle East in the first half of the 20th century. Harrassowitz, Harrasowitz 2003. ISBN 3-447-04758-5 .
  • Stefan R. Hauser : The integration of oriental archeology in the universities. In: Ludmila Hanisch (ed.): The Orient in Academic Optics. Contributions to the genesis of a scientific discipline . Orientwissenschaftliches Zentrum, Halle 2006, pp. 63–88.


Overall presentations of the research results

Historical representations of the examined period

Natural conditions of the research area

  • Wernerrautel: Introduction to the geo-archeology of the Middle East . Reichert, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-89500-374-3 (reviewed by Katleen Deckers in Journal of the American Oriental Society. 125, 2005, pp. 291-294 [1] ).

German-language magazines

  • Orientalist literary newspaper . Journal for the science of the whole Orient and its relations to the adjacent cultures (OLZ), in connection with the Institute for Ancient Near Eastern Philology and Near Eastern Archeology of the Westphalian Wilhelms University of Münster, ed. by Hans Neumann (appears annually in one volume with 6 issues; 2010 with volume 105, Akademie Verlag Berlin, ISSN  0030-5383 )
  • Zeitschrift für Orient- Aräologie (ZOrA, ISSN 1868-9078), published annually since 2008 by the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute, is published by Ernst Wasmuth Verlag Tübingen after the journals Baghdader Mitteilungen and Damaszener Mitteilungen were discontinued.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Manfred KH Eggert : Archeology. Basics of a historical cultural science. A. Francke, Tübingen 2006. p. 73.
  2. Karin Bartl , Reinhard Bernbeck , Marlies Heinz : Between Euphrates and Indus. Current research problems in Near Eastern archeology . Georg Olms, Hildesheim 1995. p. 2.
  3. Hans J. Nissen : History of the Ancient Near East . R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1999. S. XIII.
  4. ^ Anton Moortgat : Introduction to Near Eastern Archeology . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1971. p. 36.
  5. See for example Karin Bartl, Reinhard Bernbeck, Marlies Heinz: Between Euphrates and Indus. Current research problems in Near Eastern archeology. Georg Olms, Hildesheim 1995.
  6. Hans J. Nissen: Principles of a History of the Early Period of the Middle East. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1990. p. 10.
  7. See for example Edward Chiera: You wrote on clay. What the Babylonian tablets tell. Orell Füssli Verlag, Zurich / Leipzig.
  8. Hans J. Nissen: History of the Ancient Near East. R. Oldenbourg, Munich 1999. S. XIV
  9. Hans J. Nissen: Principles of a History of the Early Period of the Middle East. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1990. p. 17.
  10. ^ Anton Moortgat: Introduction to Near Eastern Archeology. Darmstadt, 1971.
  11. ^ Anton Moortgat: Introduction to Near Eastern Archeology. Darmstadt, 1971. p. 48.
  12. ^ Anton Moortgat; Introduction to Near Eastern Archeology. Darmstadt, 1971. p. 53 ff.
  13. Kühne, Hartmut: Instead of an afterword. In: Vanishing Point Uruk. Rahden: Marie Leidorf, 1999
  14. Swiss Society for Oriental Antiquities