Photographs from the 1957 Survey of Historical Monuments in Syria

Yoshihiro Nishiaki
The University Museum
The University of Tokyo


The Tokyo University Iraq-Iran Archaeological Expedition, headed by the late Professor Namio Egami, was Japan’s first substantial scientific mission to West Asia. Its extensive field campaigns carried out between 1956 and 1965 resulted in the formation of one of the largest West Asian archaeological collections available in Japan, now stored at the University Museum, the University of Tokyo. It consists of not only original materials from excavations and surveys, but also archival materials, including drawings and photographs, the latter of which is the subject of the present catalogue.

The first field campaign of the Expedition was an extensive one, starting in September 1956 and ending in May 1957. One of the most important objectives was excavation of the prehistoric site of Telul eth-Thalathat, in northern Iraq, which took place from October to December of 1956 and from March to April of 1957. During the period in between, which encompassed the rainy season in northern Iraq, the Expedition members carried out general surveys in the neighboring countries, visiting then known and unknown archaeological and historical monuments so as to build up a reference collection of materials in Japan for education in and research of West Asian archaeology. Photographic archiving was a major objective.

According to Egami (1958: 5), a total of approximately 50,000 photographs were taken during the 1956–1957 campaign. From these, a selected collection of 11,731 photographs was registered by the Expedition in its official archive. It includes 3,509 photographs from the excavations at Telul eth-Thalathat, the rest being from general surveys and other activities. In the present volume, photographs from the survey in Syria, consisting of 1,254 items, are documented. Most of them are black and white, but they also include a small number of color photographs (Plates 1.1–4.2). The general survey of Syria was conducted for about 40 days, from mid-January to late February 1957. The travel routes and major historical monuments/cities visited are shown in Fig. 1. The Expedition’s archive documents the photographs taken at the following locations: Damascus (Plates 5.1–22.2), Sweida, Crac des Chevaliers/Qalaat al-Hosn (Plates 23.1–28.2), Hama (Plates 29.1–33.2), Aleppo (Plates 34.1–68.2), the Church of St. Simeon Stylites/Qalaat Semaan (Plates 69.1–77.2), Palmyra (Plates 78.1–95.2), As-Salhiyah (Plate 96.1), Dura Europos (Plates 96.2– 99.2), and Mari (Plates 100.1–100.2).

Mainly historical monuments like old cities and ancient ruins were documented, but landscapes and local people were also recorded. The cultural and natural landscapes of any region or country are ever changing. Accordingly, those photographs taken more than a half century ago are now beginning to take on a historical significance in showing us facets of the Syrian past. Their significance may be even more highlighted given the current political instabilities in the region, which have accelerated the modification of the cultural and natural landscapes that has occurred on an unparalleled scale in this decade. We do hope that the photographs of the present volume are of use in a variety of ways for understanding the history of Syria.

The database in this volume includes 31 photographs that have been published in Egami (1958) or Egami (1965). 19 of them have been available also on our internet database (UMDB) at


Egami, N. (1958) (ed.) Orient –Records of an Archaeological Expedition (1956–1957). Tokyo: Asahi-Shimbun Press (in Japanese).

Egami, N. (1965) (ed.) Archaeological Sites in Orient. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press (in Japanese).

Fig.1 Major cities and sites visited by the University of Tokyo mission during the 1957 survey in Syria