The Iwao Kobori Arid Land Research Collection

Yoshihiro Nishiaki
The University Museum
The University of Tokyo

Professor Iwao Kobori (1924–2010) was a geographer who, through his fieldwork, studied the ecology of the arid land environments situated throughout the world and of the people who live in these areas. In addition to teaching at universities, he played a key role at numerous international institutions including the International Center for Agricultural Research Center in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the United Nations University (UNU), and the Japan Association for Arid Land Studies (JAALS), having made remarkable contributions to international activities toward the development of the arid lands research.

Professor Kobori began his field work in deserts with Iraq and Iran in 1956 and continued for over half a century, until shortly before his death. His path expanded across the globe, from the Eurasian continent to as far as Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. During those overseas investigations, Professor Kobori made vast collections of research samples. The collections during his post at the University of Tokyo were mostly held at the University Museum; however, after his transfer to other universities, the samples came to be scattered across various locations. Fortunately, through the kindness of Professor Kobori’s family and colleagues, after his death, all of these collections were finally collated at the University Museum in 2012.

The collections are special in not being limited to geographic samples such as rocks and sediments; they include samples of archeological and ethnographic materials, also derived from the ecosystems of arid lands. Reflecting the diversity of the arid land environments and the historical contexts of the inhabited communities, the samples comprise a unique collection for the arid lands research.

One other important feature of this collection that should be pointed out is its historical value. Professor Kobori was active as a fieldworker from the early days of the long-term, large-scale overseas studies that the University of Tokyo has continued from immediately after World War II to the present. He participated in such expeditions as those for archaeological excavations in West Asia (1956–), paleoanthropological investigations in Western Asia (1961–), and the research of ancient civilizations in the Andes (1958–). The samples and documents included in this collection may therefore also be considered vital materials in tracing the history of Japanese scientific studies conducted overseas.

Our current understanding is that these sample materials were collected from at least 29 countries. The present volume, the first of the planned catalogues, features ethnographic and archaeological materials from the arid lands, which are expected to be put to effective use across a variety of specialist fields, in research, exhibits, and so forth.