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Negotiating for the Past

Negotiating for the Past: Archaeology, Nationalism, and Diplomacy in the Middle East, 1919-1941

James F. Goode
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    Negotiating for the Past
    Book Description:

    The discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 was a landmark event in Egyptology that was celebrated around the world. Had Howard Carter found his prize a few years earlier, however, the treasures of Tut might now be in the British Museum in London rather than the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. That's because the years between World War I and World War II were a transitional period in Middle Eastern archaeology, as nationalists in Egypt and elsewhere asserted their claims to antiquities discovered within their borders. These claims were motivated by politics as much as by scholarship, with nationalists seeking to unite citizens through pride in their ancient past as they challenged Western powers that still exercised considerable influence over local governments and economies. James Goode's analysis of archaeological affairs in Turkey, Egypt, Iran, and Iraq during this period offers fascinating new insight into the rise of nationalism in the Middle East, as well as archaeological and diplomatic history.

    The first such work to compare archaeological-nationalistic developments in more than one country, Negotiating for the Past draws on published and archival sources in Arabic, English, French, German, Persian, and Turkish. Those sources reveal how nationalists in Iraq and Iran observed the success of their counterparts in Egypt and Turkey, and were able to hold onto discoveries at legendary sites such as Khorsabad and Persepolis. Retaining artifacts allowed nationalists to build museums and control cultural heritage. As Goode writes, "Going to the national museum became a ritual of citizenship." Western archaeologists became identified (in the eyes of many) as agents of imperialism, thus making their work more difficult, and often necessitating diplomatic intervention. The resulting "negotiations for the past" pulled patrons (such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Lord Carnarvon), archaeologists (James Breasted and Howard Carter), nationalist leaders (Ataturk and Sa'd Zaghlul), and Western officials (Charles Evan Hughes and Lord Curzon) into intractable historical debates with international implications that still resonate today.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79471-9
    Subjects: Archaeology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-18)

    This study of the Middle East during the two decades after World War I examines events in the region from the perspective of archaeology. This twenty-year period witnessed a major transformation in Middle Eastern archaeology, and such an approach provides a key to understanding many of the important political, cultural, and diplomatic developments during those critical years. The detailed discussion and analysis of archaeological affairs in Turkey, Egypt, Iran, and Iraq, which shared remarkably similar experiences, reveals how intertwined the field had become with the broad agendas of the nationalist elites of the day.

    For Western archaeologists the interwar years...

    (pp. 19-30)

    With the end of World War I and soon thereafter the demise of the Ottoman Empire, a spirit of nationalism slowly spread throughout the Turkish population of Anatolia and Thrace. The courageous exploits and rousing speeches of Mustafa Kemal, later fondly called Atatürk (“Father Turk”) enlivened spirits that had suffered through years of war, defeat, and foreign intervention.

    Mustafa Kemal had been the hero of successful Turkish resistance at the battle of Gallipoli (March–December 1915), when an Allied army, seeking to seize the Dardanelles to allow passage of the British fleet to Istanbul and the Black Sea, had taken...

    (pp. 31-42)

    As the new spirit of nationalism suffused the Middle East in the years immediately following World War I, tensions developed; wherever Westerners attempted to impose control, Middle Easterners resisted. One can observe these tensions in every sphere of activity, in business, in education, and especially in archaeology. This last, which has received relatively little attention from historians, proved one of the most contentious. Disputes over ancient sites and the antiquities they yielded went to the heart of the nationalist struggle; whoever controlled them obtained a useful tool for shaping the history and ideology of the nation. Following is the story...

    (pp. 43-66)

    Soon after the Sardis affair had been resolved, a new American player began to make tentative contacts with government officials in Ankara. This was James Breasted, whose Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago would become the most important American excavator in Turkey between the wars. Breasted was in some ways a visionary; his methods fit perfectly with the movement to ward modernization and centralization that was taking place in the United States during the 1920s. He wanted to centralize American archaeology in the Middle East in his institute, which would become a kind of archaeological think tank. Backed by...

    (pp. 67-98)

    Even those who are generally unfamiliar with the ancient history of the Middle East and of wondrous sites at Boğazköy, Ur, or Persepolis will quickly recognize pictures of the wonders of the Nile Valley—the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the treasures of Tutankhamun. Along with the classical sites of Greece and Rome and those in Palestine and Israel associated with the Bible, there are in the West no better known antiquities than those of Pharaonic Egypt. Its history captures the imagination of the general public, beginning with schoolchildren, who study the art and engineering of the Pyramids, the refined and somewhat...

    (pp. 99-126)

    Since his first postwar visit to Egypt in 1919, James Breasted had returned every year and always with an impressive list of projects to complete. Spending time in Cairo was obligatory, if distasteful. He preferred the quiet of Upper Egypt, especially Luxor, whose slower pace of life allowed him time to visit the nearby monuments regularly. Here, he could oversee the work of his epigraphic survey team, catch up on his voluminous correspondence, and entertain the constant stream of guests, archaeologists, dignitaries, officials, friends, and friends of friends. After the new Chicago House, with its spacious grounds and lovely gardens,...

    (pp. 127-140)

    After World War I nationalists in one country after another took action to limit what they considered the “theft” of their heritage by foreign archaeologists. Ensuing negotiations lasted many years, often drawing in European and American diplomats, called upon to support their compatriots, whom, they argued, worked under difficult circumstances, selflessly serving science and humanity. The story of another such effort, that to end the French archaeological monopoly in Iran in the 1920s, involved a familiar cast of archaeologists, diplomats, and nationalists and typified developments unfolding at approximately the same time throughout much of the region.

    This affair began in...

    (pp. 141-166)

    American archaeological interests came to dominate in Iran in the decade following the end of the French monopoly. This was arguably the most important U.S. commitment in the country up to the arrival of the Yankee Brigade in the middle of World War II. This fact helps to explain the extraordinary level of diplomatic activity there on behalf of the archaeologists and their sponsoring institutions. The diplomats took a more active role than they did in Egypt, where the British and French still dominated, or in Turkey, where they had to move cautiously for fear of provoking a nationalist backlash....

    (pp. 167-184)

    Ernst Herzfeld’s departure marked another stage in the gradual transformation of archaeological relations between Iran and the West. In 1929 Iran had successfully ended the long period of French monopoly over its ancient sites. Now, five years later, the government had succeeded in enforcing its rules governing the excavation of its most important site.

    With Herzfeld gone, the expedition’s work could resume, and Breasted wasted no time selecting a new director. Godard had hoped that his friend, Friedrich Krefter, would be chosen, but Breasted turned instead to Erich Schmidt, another German but one who had recently become an American citizen....

    (pp. 185-202)

    To the west of the Iranian plateau lay Mesopotamia, the land between the two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates; it had witnessed the rise and fall of numerous city-states and empires, among them, Ur, Nippur, Babylonia, and Assyria. The region was rich in the history of the development of human society, competing in importance with Egypt itself.

    Buried under fertile riverine soils or desert sands lay largely untouched the relics of these ancient societies. As in Egypt, Turkey, and Iran, the revival of interest in these peoples and their long-buried cities was nurtured by European adventurers and Orientalists, who...

    (pp. 203-222)

    Nineteen thirty-three proved pivotal for Iraq. It brought the first full year of independence and the death of King Faisal, whose steady hand was removed suddenly and unexpectedly. His heir, Ghazi (r. 1933–1939), was decidedly less friendly to the British than his father had been. “Ghazi represented the new Iraqi, the younger generation which grew up during the 1920s, now actively expressing its animosity toward the British . . . and its support for Arab nationalism.”¹

    The first crisis for archaeologists began in July 1933, even before Faisal’s death. Since 1929 control over the Department of Antiquities had returned...

  15. 11. A NEW ERA
    (pp. 223-228)

    For a generation nationalists and foreign archaeologists had been negotiating, often unhappily, the terms under which excavation would continue in the region. The diplomats had weighed in from time to time, siding with their compatriots. And yet step by step the Westerners had been forced to give way. These changes frequently followed a crisis such as that over Sardis, or Persepolis, or the treasure of Tutankhamun, which revealed just how strong the local nationalists had become. Some changes were barely perceptible to outsiders: the demand that foreign archaeologists accept local inspectors or that finds be reported continuously throughout the season....

    (pp. 229-234)

    Over the decades since the close of World War II, problems relating to archaeology and antiquities have persisted in the Middle East. They did not disappear with the transfer of archaeological affairs into the hands of local nationalists. Sometimes there was bickering among internal factions, each with its own agenda. Sometimes crises arose, as they often had during the interwar years, between Westerners and local governments.

    Stolen antiquities made headlines again in 1987, when the Turkish government filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Peasants digging illegally in the vicinity of Sardis in the early 1960s had uncovered...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 235-266)
    (pp. 267-280)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 281-293)