Oriental Societies & societal self-assertion Associations, Funds and Societies for the Archaeological Exploration of the ‘Ancient Near East’
An International Workshop
hosted by the
Concept and realization by
Thomas L. Gertzen (Berlin) & Olaf Matthes (Hamburg)
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.
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.
Zeit & Ort
23.02.2022 - 25.02.2022
The workshop will take place 23.–25. February 2022 as an online event. Scholars and Researchers interested in taking part, might register under the following link:
For questions or special requests you might contact registration under this E-Mail-address:
Both also apply to the key-note lecture by Christoph Jahr on Wednesday 23rd, for which a separate link will be provided.
To enable speakers and participants to continue exchange and discussions beyond coffee- and lunchbreaks and after the Workshop, comments, suggestions, links and literature maybe ‘posted’ on our padlet: https://de.padlet.com/workshoporientalsocieties/tdk6kadt1luz1jpy