Scramble for the Past:
A Story of Archaeology in the
Ottoman Empire, 1753-1914

507 Edited by Zainab Bahrani, Zeynep Çelik and Edhem Eldem
SALT, November 2011
ISBN 978-9944-731-27-0
Edited by Zainab Bahrani, Zeynep Çelik and Edhem Eldem
SALT, November 2011
ISBN 978-9944-731-27-0
When at the turn of the 19th century Lord Elgin stripped the Parthenon of its sculptures and carried them to England, he saw himself as both preserving classical art for posterity and claiming classical heritage for the west. When, soon after, the French government purchased an armless statue of Aphrodite on the island of Melos and displayed it triumphantly in the Louvre, it, too, identified France as the natural heir of antiquity. The Austrians and Germans, for their part, unearthed and brought home vast quantities of sculpture and architecture from throughout the Near East.

Beginning in the mid-18th century, European scholars and amateurs poured into Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Mesopotamia to explore, dig, catalogue and cart home material remains of the ancient world. The collections they amassed became celebrated museums; the scholarly techniques they developed formed the foundation of modern scientific archaeology. At the time, however, the lands they traversed and the antiquities they found belonged neither to the empires of Europe, nor to local states; rather, the entire territory was the possession of the Ottoman Empire. What did the Ottomans think of the European passion for the past? What was their own view of the ancient world and its heritage?

Scramble for the Past explores the historiography of archaeology in the Ottoman domains between the founding of London’s British Museum in 1753 and that of İstanbul’s Evkaf Museum of Islamic art in 1914. It sees the rise of archaeology not as an alien western imposition upon the east, or indeed as a purely European invention, but as a process that emerged out of an interaction between Europe and the Ottoman world. Essays by fifteen leading international scholars explore the relationship of archaeology to politics, ideology and national identity, as well as the influences of ancient finds on popular culture.

Filled with anecdotes and incidents, and richly illustrated with period paintings, sculptures, postcards, photographs, documents and rarities from the Ottoman archives, Scramble for the Past offers a fascinating new look at the modern invention of the ancient world.

Cover design: Future Anecdotes
Cover illustration: Detail from Austen Henry Layard, Nineveh and Its Remains, 1849, plate 51
To order online: Scramble for the Past

A Note on Spelling, Transliteration, and Dating
Map: The Ottoman Empire
Introduction: Archaeology and Empire — Zainab Bahrani, Zeynep Çelik, and Edhem Eldem
Interlude: A Late Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Painting and Novella
Indigenous Archaeologies in Ottoman Greece — Yannis Hamilakis
“An Inconsiderate Love of the Arts”: The Spoils of Greek Antiquities, 1780-1820 — George Tolias
Interlude: An Egyptian Historian Observes British Archaeologists
The Layard Enterprise: Victorian Archaeology and Informal Imperialism in Mesopotamia — Shawn Malley
Untold Tales of Mesopotamian Discovery — Zainab Bahrani
Archaeological Travels in Greece and Asia Minor: On the Good Use of Ruins in Nineteenth-Century France — Sophie Basch
The Rediscovery of Constantinople and the Beginnings of Byzantine Archaeology: A Historiographic Survey — Robert Ousterhout
Ernest Renan’s Expedition to Phoenicia — Henry Laurens
Interlude: Osman Hamdi and Ernest Renan
The Venus de Milo: Genesis of a Modern Myth — Philippe Jockey
The “Rediscovery” of Baalbek: A Metaphor for Empire in the Nineteenth Century — Ussama Makdisi
From Blissful Indifference to Anguished Concern: Ottoman Perceptions of Antiquities, 1799-1869 — Edhem Eldem
Archaeology and Cultural Politics: Ottoman-Austrian Relations — Hubert Szemethy
Interlude: The Stories Behind a Letter
Ernst Herzfeld and the Excavations at Samarra — Filiz Çakır Phillip
A Fin-de-Siècle Reconnaissance of Seljuk Anatolia: Friedrich Sarre and His Reise in Kleinasien — Oya Pancaroğlu
Interlude: Halil Edhem on the Museum of Pious Foundations
From Mausoleum to Museum: Resurrecting Antiquity for Ottoman Modernity — Wendy M. K. Shaw
Defining Empire’s Patrimony: Late Ottoman Perceptions of Antiquities — Zeynep Çelik
Interlude: The Museum as a Civic Tool
Selected Bibliography
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