5 May 2018 - 14:30


A Critical Approach to Archaeology and Museology in the Ottoman Empire

Squeezed between the indifference of a triumphalist Western discourse and the nationalist biases of Turkish historiography, the history of Ottoman archaeology and museology has failed to elicit sufficient critical scholarship. This is even truer of the period up to 1881, when Osman Hamdi Bey was appointed director of the Imperial Museum. A closer look at this period of about four decades allows for much needed corrections and additions to our patchy knowledge, while it also reveals some structural weaknesses of Ottoman and, later, Turkish archaeology. While there is no doubt that Osman Hamdi Bey has greatly contributed to the development of both archaeology and museology, it should not be forgotten that this “golden age” had its share of serious problems and shortcomings, rarely identified or addressed to this day. Considering the rapid, yet problematic, way in which archaeology developed under the Republic, it appears that in the 170 years or so that have followed the establishment of the first museum in 1846, Ottoman-Turkish archaeology and museology have followed a generally successful path, but fraught with serious and compounded problems.

Edhem Eldem

Boğaziçi Üniversitesi