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From Lord Elgin to Gertrude Bell

A local perspective on British archaeology in the Ottoman Empire

April 15, 2020
18.00 – 19.00 GMT

British Museum, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG


A talk by Edhem Eldem

Lord Elgin’s removal of the Parthenon friezes at the turn of the 19th century can safely be taken as the starting point of a long period of British involvement in archaeology throughout the Ottoman Empire, from Greece to Anatolia and Mesopotamia.

For over a century, British diplomats, travellers, antiquarians, adventurers, and archaeologists roamed the Ottoman lands in search of antiquities and archaeological sites.

From ‘cherry-picking’ to systematic excavations, from predatory practices to scientific collaboration, from diplomatic exchanges to military intelligence, the story of British archaeology in the Ottoman Empire can only benefit from what its grand narrative lacks most: a focus on the Ottoman and local dimensions of this complex process.

Edhem Eldem teaches at the Department of History at Boğaziçi University and holds the International Chair of Turkish and Ottoman History at the Collège de France. His fields of interest and expertise include the Levant trade, funerary epigraphy, Istanbul, the Ottoman Bank, the history of archaeology in the Ottoman lands, Ottoman first-person narratives, and Ottoman photography.


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