There is a saying that Balkans, sometimes rightly compared to a “powder keg”, is a place where the East offered a hand to the West but the West refused to shake it. The Balkan Peninsula is a land bridge between Europe and Asia, through which pass major cultural boundaries. The Balkans are a border, and an arena, between two different cultural spheres with contrasting world views, value systems, aesthetics, and artistic tendencies: Rome and Byzantium, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire, West and East, Modern and Oriental. And we cannot forget that there are deep divisions within the Balkans, particularly between north and south. These divisions have unfortunately manifested themselves as open warfare but have also been expressed in the politics of Yugoslavian Egyptology.
Figure 1: Scarab excavated in Serbia. Photo courtesy of B. Anđelković.
Archaeological objects from the Near East appeared sporadically in Serbia and can be classified in four chronological and contextual settings. The first – represented by a glazed composition scarab found in a local Iron Age ruler’s grave mound (dated 550-520 B.C.) in Southwestern Serbia – corresponds to prehistory (Figure 1). The second, the era of Roman domination, includes a number of artifacts, chiefly figurines, lamps, and inscribed altars, connected to Egyptian or syncretistic deities, chiefly Isis, Isis-Fortune, Harpocrates, Anubis, Hermes-Thoth, and others. These are mostly of Roman rather than Egyptian manufacture, though during the construction of Roman emperor Galerius’ palace in Eastern Serbia (ca. 300 A.D.) a number of architectural elements including some columns and statuary were made of Aswan red granite and other Egyptian stone (Figure 2). Continue reading →
The transformative political events in the Middle East over the past two years have had, among many other unexpected outcomes, profound effects on the direction of research in Near Eastern archaeology.War and civil unrest act as both a carrot and a stick, forcing the cessation of fieldwork in some areas, while promoting new investigations in places that might otherwise have gone unexplored. The geopolitics of the post-Arab Spring world are changing where we are able work, and by consequence they will shape the research questions we investigate, as well as the regions where future generations of scholars will likely specialize. But the present moment of realignment is far from unique—our discipline has been shaped from the beginning by the tumultuous political history of the Middle East.
In the spring of 1920, James Henry Breasted and a group of scholars from the University of Chicago’s newly founded Oriental Institute embarked on a survey of major archaeological sites in Mesopotamia and Syria. It was Breasted’s hope that the return of political stability under British rule after the end of World War I would facilitate renewed investigations in Mesopotamia. Having traveled by steamer from Egypt, via Bombay, to Basra in southern Iraq, the team began making their way up the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, visiting many of the most prominent sites in the region, including Uruk, Babylon, and Nineveh.
Oriental Institute expedition team members pose with British officers at the west gate of Dura Europos, May 1920. (Image reproduced courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum’s Photographic Archives http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/collections/pa/).
Egypt’s January 25th revolution was originally seen as part of the larger “Arab Spring” across the Middle East where old political regimes were overthrown by popular protests and replaced by representative democracies. But on January 28th 2011, as chaos reigned in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, reports began circulating around the globe claiming that antiquities on display in the Egyptian Museum had been stolen. Zahi Hawass, the famous face of Egyptian archaeology, Mubarak regime insider, and then head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), was immediately embroiled in the situation. Many outside of Egypt believed that the political volatility and economic crisis engulfing the capital and the rest of the country had claimed some of the most precious artifacts of Egypt’s over 5,000 year history which would be lost forever. Egyptians of all social classes converged on the museum to protect it, sparking hopes that a new era in the relationship between Egyptians and their past had begun. Continue reading →
By: Yuan Zhihui, Tianjin Normal University, China, Noble Group Fellow
During my four-and-a-half month fellowship at the Albright, my research project focused on “The Relationship of Egypt and its Vassals as Reflected in the Amarna Tablets.” The aim of the project was to reveal the diplomatic system between Egypt and its vassal states in Canaan. My study draws upon the Amarna Letters, the most important document of the Late Bronze Age, as well as archaeological material from the Near East in order to explore the political and economic relationship between Egypt and these states in Canaan during this period. My research concentrated on the political, economic and ideological relations between Egypt and its vassal states in Canaan; and two models were employed — the core-periphery approach and the prestige-power theory. Continue reading →
Justin with Abdel Assez Farouk, Head Kuft and Reis on site.
By: Justin Yoo, 2011 Platt Fellow
I once heard it said about artists, that they essentially go through life as ‘beggars.’ Even when they are employed, they are always looking for their next job and meal. Sometimes as a graduate student in archaeology, I feel we students can relate to this notion. We are beholden to the goodwill and munificence of universities, professors, the government, and family—and my own experience is that they all have helped finance, in some way fund, the essential education and training required to follow an academic dream that most would call nothing more than a fool’s errand. Continue reading →
Being selected to receive the ASOR Platt Excavation Fellowship has profoundly impacted me and my career in numerous ways. On a practical level, the support of the Platt Excavation Fellowship made it possible for me to join the staff of the Pennsylvania State University expedition to Mendes for the 2012 season by covering the cost of my airfare to Egypt. For many students who have chosen to work in Egypt, the cost of airfare can limit or entirely exclude individuals from participation in field work. When combined, airfare, room and board, ground transit, baggage fees, and other miscellaneous expenses to undertake field work in Egypt can cost thousands of dollars. Mitigating even one of those factors can take a potential field season from being cost-prohibitive, to being possible. Continue reading →
This year we are pleased to announce a new workshop session for the ASOR Annual Meeting, Archaeological Conservation Strategies in the Near East. Both conservators and archaeologists tend to present research within their own fields, effectively segregating the disciplines. But this year, thanks to ASOR, we have an opportunity to foster collaboration and promote information sharing among conservators and archaeologists working in the Near East. As conservators who work on excavations in the Near East, this topic is important to us and we hope you’ll find it interesting and important, too.
The workshop contributors will present multi-disciplinary projects and research on archaeological heritage from Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Iraq. Topics examined will include regional trends in conservation, balancing preservation and access, site management, treatments of challenging materials, and collaborations with local conservation and archaeological communities. Moderated discussions between the presentations will engage the contributors as well as the audience, creating an ongoing dialogue that we hope will ultimately improve preservation for archaeological materials and sites in the Near East. If you have questions, insights, or just an interest in these topics, please join us. Continue reading →
After a long and tiring journey, which consisted of a flight from Chicago to New York, a nine-hour layover in New York, a flight from New York to Frankfurt, Germany, a three hour layover in Frankfurt, a flight from Frankfurt to Cairo, an over-night stay in Cairo (the flight got in rather late), and a three hour drive…we finally arrived at Mendes! Do not get me wrong, the flights were smooth and the company of the other expedition members made the trip much more tolerable than had I been alone, but in total, I was awake and on the move from 8:00am Monday morning until 8:00pm Tuesday night, and that does not include the over-night in Cairo nor the drive to Mendes. Continue reading →
Justin with Abdel Assez Farouk, Head Kuft and Reis on site.
Thanks to ASOR and its generous Platt Fellowship, I was able to participate as a supervisor on the Tell Timai /University of Hawaii’s 2011 summer excavation season in Egypt’s Nile delta region, working under Professor Robert J Littman and Dr. Jay Silverstein. I was lucky to be part of a multinational team with diverse archaeological/methodological orientations: from Anthropology, Classics, Philology, Art History and Egyptology. Supervisors hailed from the US, UK, Mexico, Greece, Germany, Egypt and Australia. A very talented cohort of students came from the US, Italy, Australia, Nigeria, Egypt and Canada. Egyptian workmen, both local and from Kuft, rounded out a spectacularly talented team that I feel privileged to have been a part of. Continue reading →
It is with great pleasure we announce that on April 24, 2010, the ASOR board of trustees unanimously adopted the â€œStrategic Plan as a blueprint to move ASOR forward.â€ A considerable amount of work has been done by the Strategic Planning Task Force that was chaired by ASOR President Tim Harrison. We thank President Harrison and the rest of the committee (Susan Ackerman, Jimmy Hardin, Morag Kersel, Sten LaBianca, P. E. MacAllister, and Carol Meyers) for their efforts and excellent work. To review ASORâ€™s Strategic Planning documents, please click here.
The Strategic Plan sets forth a blueprint for ASOR to move forward, but it intentionally did not resolve many implementation issues. The next step will be for President Tim Harrison to appoint an â€œImplementation Task Forceâ€ that will be charged with bringing specific recommendations for implementing the goals set forth in the Strategic Plan to the board of trustees. Updates on the progress of this committee will be posted online and in upcoming ASOR Newsletters.
Please contact Tim Harrison with any questions or comments on the Strategic Plan and with recommendations for the implementation stage. This is an exciting time for ASOR and we look forward to collaborating with our members in the years to come.
Posted by ASOR’s executive director: Andrew G. Vaughn