“Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920,” is on display at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute through August 29th. The exhibit follows Illinois native and Institute Founder James Henry Breasted's daring travels through Egypt and Mesopotamia during the unstable aftermath of WWI.
The exterior of the Nebi Shiite mosque in Mosul, Iraq with cemetary in the foreground, photo courtesy of the Oriental Institute
Breasted's journey placed him in the Middle East at a pivotal time. The region was occupied by British and French troops who opposed the stirrings of nationalism which ultimately led to the creation of today's Middle East states.
Breasted's story is told through never-before-exhibited photos, artifacts, letters, and archival documents including his elaborate passport and even the wind-torn American flag that he carried on his trip.
Breasted's letters refer to the luminaries of the time, many of whom he met on this trip - Faysal, who became the first king of Iraq; Gertrude Bell who founded the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad; Lord Allenby, the general who recaptured Jerusalem and Damascus during the War; and T. E. Lawrence "of Arabia".
Orit Bashkin, Assistant Professor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Geoff Emberling, Research Associate and Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum join us to share the story of the Oriental Institute’s Founder…