Report on a successful workshop at the ICAANE

On the 23rd of May 2023, our group successfully organised a workshop meeting at the “International Conference on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East” (ICAANE) in Copenhagen, Denmark. What started out as an idea for an online conference transformed into a workshop at the biggest conference on the Archaeology of West Asia. In this post, we want to give a short overview of the one-day event.

The day started early with some technical difficulties. We were given a mid-sized room in building 22 of the university campus and soon, people started to arrive. As the WAitC team was partially in Copenhagen and partially online, we tried to set up a working zoom connection, so people could join and participate online. We, the chairs, started with an introduction into the topic, after some words on how this workshop was initiated.

The first block of speaker presented talks about the construction of the Bagdad Railway and how colonial interests were steering archaeological works (T. Jojo/Y. Helmholz), problematizing the term “Mesopotamia” (R. Rattenborg) and how Ernst Herzfeld was influencing Iranian Archaeology and in which way his correspondence sheds light on the French, German, and American archaeologists’ rivalry for excavation sites (Z. Kouzehgari). During the first three talks, we were able to overcome the already mentioned technical problems and had the workshop running by then to enjoy a well-deserved coffee break.

The second block of speakers presented to us the Swiss view on Orientalism based on archival work (N. SchĂĽrmann), how the interest in the Indus Valley was influenced by political decisions of that time (H.J. Miller) and how the concept of Necography can help the curation of objects in general and in this special case of a Neo-Assyrian relief (E.X. Jarrard). We closed the block a bit late, but still in time to enjoy a lovely lunch break.

An image showing L. Loges during her talk at the workshop
L. Loges in her talk about “Framing Looted Heritage: How news media and collectors use orientalist narratives in the discourse of antiquities looting and trafficking” | Photo S. Hageneuer

The third block taught us about how the news media and collectors use orientalist narratives when talking about looting and trafficking (L. Loges), how exhibition design can overcome orientalist narratives (B. Banasik) and how playing videogames today resembles colonialist and imperialist thought of the 19th century (S. Hageneuer). A final coffee break was needed to re-strengthen our brains for the final block.

In the final block, we listened to a last presentation about West Asian characters in “Asterix the Gaul” comics and how these fit into the current debate on orientalism (B. Morstadt) and closed off the session with a rather interesting and enlightening final discussion with all participants. What started out in the morning with a half-full room, ended in a full-packed room and a lively discussion. We learned a lot about the problems we encountered and also discussed how we could proceed. For now, we are organising a way of publishing the presentations in a open-access volume. So stay tuned, because there is more to come.