Empires of Antiquities: Modernity and the Rediscovery of the Ancient Near East, 1914-1950

ISBN : 9780198824558

Billie Melman
416 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Mar 2020
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Empires of Antiquities is a history of the rediscovery of the imperial civilizations of the ancient Near East in a modern imperial order that evolved between the outbreak of the First World War and the decolonization of the British Empire in the 1950s. It explores the ways in which near eastern antiquity was redefined and experienced, becoming the subject of imperial regulation, modes of enquiry, and international and national politics.

Billie Melman follows a series of globally publicized spectacular archaeological discoveries in Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine, which made antiquity material visible and accessible as never before. She demonstrates that the new definition and uses of antiquity and their relations to modernity were inseparable from the emergence of the post-war international imperial order, transnational collaboration and crises, the aspirations of national groups, and collisions between them and the British mandatories. This study uniquely combines a history of the internationalization of archaeology and the rise of a new 'regime of antiquities', under the oversight of the League of Nations and its institutions, a history of British attitudes to, and passion for near eastern antiquity and on the ground, colonial policies and mechanisms, as well as nationalist claims on the past. It points at the centrality of the new mandate system. Drawing on an unusually wide range of materials collected in archives in six countries, as well as on material and visual evidence, this volume weaves together imperial, international and national histories, and the history of archaeological discovery which it connects to imperial modernity.



Part I

1 Mandated Pasts: War, Peace, and the New Regime of Antiquities

Part II

2 Illustrating the Bible: Travel, Archaeology, and Modernity in Mandated Biblical Lands

3 Cities of David: Planning and Excavating Jerusalem

4 Lachish: Excavation, Land and Violence -Tell ed-Duweir, Circa 1932-1945

Part III

5 Ur: Modernity and the Matter of Antiquity between Two World Wars

6 Murder in Mesopotamia: Antiquity, Genres of Modernity, and Gender in the Popular Crime Novel

7 Prehistories for Modernity: Stone- Age Humans and Others-Palestine and Mesopotamia

8 Egyptian Antiquity, Imperial Politics, and Modernity: Tutankhamun and After

9 Nefertiti Lived Here: Tell el- Amarna-- Imperial Crisis and Domestic Modernity, c. 1920-1939

10 The Road to Alexandria, the Paths to Siwa-Hellenism, the Modern World, and the End of Empires, 1915-1956



About the author: 

Billie Melman is Professor of History at Tel Aviv University and Henri Glasberg Chair of European Studies. She is a cultural historian of Britain and Europe and has written on British colonialism and orientalism, on cross-cultural exchanges, on uses of the British and French past, on memory, and on gender.

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