Database of historical photographs of West Asia (Iraq, 1956-1957)

Yoshihiro Nishiaki
The University Museum
The University of Tokyo

The Department of Archaeology of West Asia of the University Museum holds many research photographs taken on affiliated archaeological expeditions to countries in the Near and Middle East. Since 1956, almost annual expeditions have resulted in the formation of one of the most important archaeological photographic collections available in Japan. To make them more accessible, the UMDB (University Museum Database) has published a few data sets in the last decades: Photographic database of archaeological sites in Western Asia (1996, 2013), Selected photographs of archaeological sites in Iraq (2005), and Photographs from the 1957 survey of historical monuments in Syria (2016). However, they comprise only a small percentage of the entire collection held in the department.

The present database is an addition to our attempts to publish the historical photographs of West Asia. This time, with a grant-in-aid from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences (#19HP8009), it registers 1641 photographs from the 1956-1957 archaeological investigations in Iraq conducted by a team from the University of Tokyo team, headed by the late Professor Namio Egami. They are part of the tens of thousands of photographs taken in nearly a dozen countries during the project from October 1956 to August 1957. Since then, the landscape, ethnography, and appearances of archaeological heritage in Iraq have greatly changed. The photographic records document not only those in the 1950s but also the views held by Japanese archaeologists, for whom this was the first experience of a long-term research stay in the Middle East. As such, we believe that they deserve analysis and use from multiple perspectives.