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From its birth at the beginning of the 19th century, until the end of World War I, oriental archaeology was practised across a vast territory under the authority of the Ottoman Empire.

Oriental archaeology concerned Anatolia, as well as Egypt and the entire Near East. However, the close connection between the discovery of cuneiform inscriptions in Persia and the development of the first archaeological projects, means that the field of oriental archaeology should be extended to Iran.

The history of this discipline is set in an international political context, which determined how it was exercised and developed. Thus, it is not possible to analyse French oriental archaeology on its own, while ignoring other enterprises carried out by other western countries (Germany, Great Britain, Russia, the USA), in the common perspective of dominating the struggles of influence and interests with the Ottoman Empire and in the countries born from its dissolution. Oriental archaeology and its development are linked to the political situation of the countries in question and the foreign policy conducted by the western powers. For example, the Expedition to Egypt and Syria, the foundation stone of Egyptology, was primarily a military campaign conducted by Bonaparte to counter Britain’s “Great Game”.

In the Near East, as in North Africa, French archaeology had to adapt to the political upheavals that occurred in the countries where it was being practised, for example 1946 for the Near East, and 1952 for Egypt.

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Image caption : Le Serapeum de Memphis découvert et décrit par Auguste Mariette. 1857-1866

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Archaeology – full introduction
From its birth at the beginning of the 19th century, until the end of World War I, oriental archaeology was practised across a vast territory under the authority of the Ottoman Empire. Oriental archaeology concerned Anato...
Eve Gran-Aymerich,doctor of literature
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The Latakia trove
The Latakia trove is a collection of silver coins dating from the 2nd century BCE which was discovered in 1759, buried in a vase on the Syrian coast, near Latakia. The exact number of the coins that it contained is unknow...
Frédérique Duyrat, directeur du département des Monnaies, médailles et antiques, BnF
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The scientific study of Palmyra only took off in the second half of the 19th century, when beginning in the 1860s, scholars replaced adventurers and started to come and work in Palmyra.
Annie et Maurice Sartre, emeritus professors of Roman and Ancient History
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It was during the period of the French Mandate that the great archaeological missions were launched in the Near East (Syria-Lebanon) and that the excavation service was organised. René Dussaud was the linchpin and main or...
Christiane Delplace, emeritus research director at the CNRS, former head of the French Archaeological Mission to Palmyra
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The first scientific excavations in Palestine were initiated over a 150 years ago by French scholars. Because of the special status of the Holy Land, archaeology there has always involved specific issues. ...
Jean-Sylvain Caillou, co-director of the Franco-Palestinian archaeological mission of Samaria-Sebastia, the French Institute of the Middle East
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Lebanon’s main sites have never been forgotten. However, it was necessary to wait for the second half of the 19th century to witness the real beginnings of a scholarly exploration of the country, with the Phoenician missi...
Jean-Baptiste Yon, research director at the CNRS, associate director of the HiSoMA-UMR 5189 laboratory
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The scholarly French presence on the territory of the current kingdom of Hachemite Jordan goes back to 1828, with the pioneer exploration of Petra by the engineer L. M. Linant de Bellefonds and the young Léon de Laborde. ...
Laurent Tholbecq, professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and director of the French archaeological mission at Petra
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1842 marked the beginning of the French archaeological adventure in Iraq, when the French Consul Paul-Emile Botta opened the first excavation site in Nineva. In 1843, he started the digs in Khorsabad that in 1847 led to t...
Aline Tenu, CNRS, History and Archaeology of the Cuneiform Orient Team, UMR 7041, Nanterre.
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The Expedition to Egypt offered a point of anchorage in the construction of Egyptian archaeology which developed under a strong French influence: the decipherment of hieroglyphs by Champollion, the direction of Le Service...
Vanessa Desclaux, égyptologue, conservateur chargée de collections en Archéologie, BnF ; chercheur associé à HiSoMA – UMR 5189
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