Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Beginning of the End of Excavation Archive Partage in Iraq

Using Foreign Office documents, Dr Juliette Desplat discusses 'Decolonising archaeology in Iraq?' (National Archives Blog,  Tuesday 27 June 2017):
A new Law of Antiquities was approved in Iraq in 1924, as the country was under a British Mandate. Drawn up by Gertrude Bell, it was very generous towards foreign archaeologists, allowing them to receive and export a substantial share of the artefacts uncovered. It all started to change in 1933, a year after the Kingdom of Iraq was granted independence. The ‘Arpachiyah Scandal’, involving Agatha Christie’s husband Max Mallowan, was the first step on a long and winding road towards an attempt to decolonise archaeology.  At the end of the season the Director of Antiquities, German archaeologist Julius Jordan, divided up the objects found by various expeditions, as usual. [...] As Mallowan was about to leave, he was told the export permit needed to bring the artefacts back to the UK had been denied (FO 371/16923).
In October 1934, Julius Jordan was replaced by Sati al Husri. For the first time, Iraq had an Iraqi Director of Antiquities. He immediately started drafting a new law [...] [and] was finally promulgated in April 1936. Article 49, laying out the provisions for the division of the finds, stipulated that archaeologists would receive half the duplicates, the objects the Museum didn’t want and could make casts of the others.

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