chapter  3
10 Pages

: Near Eastern Archaeology: Imperial Pasts, Postcolonial Presents, and

ByBenjamin W. Porter

Archaeological research in what is commonly known as the “Near East” or “Middle East” began in the late 18th century, when European explorers fanned out through the region following Napoleon’s 1798 Egyptian campaigns. Although made up of an assortment of archaeologists and explorers, historians, and philologists, the collective discipline that emerged over the 19th and 20th centuries now bears the title “Near Eastern Archaeology.” Like archaeological practice around the world, Near Eastern archaeology often played a role in European and North American imperial and colonialist enterprises in the region, in part due to Western fascination with the “Land of the Bible.” Currently, the region’s nationstates manage their own antiquities, often using them to construct narratives that legitimate postcolonial circumstances. However, despite more than a half-century of independent control, decolonization of

archaeological practices has only recently begun in this region.