The birth of archaeology
Exploring the “East”
Individuals, who roamed the Arab and Ottoman world in search of knowledge and both natural and man-made objects, lay the foundations for national interactions.
A race for influence and trade brought Europeans to the Middle East in unprecedented numbers. Consulates appeared, merchants connected to local networks and intrepid tourists explored the lands of the Bible. They fed a voracious appetite for knowledge about people, places, plants and animals.

The early explorers were knowledgeable in many areas, and had wide interests. In addition to their political or military skills, they were linguists, historians, ethnographers, geographers, surveyors and artists. British Consul Claudius Rich knew several local languages; he did valuable geographical and ethnographic work and collected many important manuscripts, coins and other antiquities.

Britain and France played out their rivalry in new arenas. Such national rivalries were tempered by strong professional and personal relationships between individuals. Information was shared, and scholarship advanced.
Portrait of Claudius Rich


The British Museum, London, United Kingdom

Claudius James Rich ushered in a new era in Middle Eastern archaeology. He was appointed to the new position of Resident of the East India Company in Baghdad, promoting British trade, and countering French manoeuvres for influence. During his posting, he explored archaeological sites and published the first accurate map of Babylon. His finds constitute the core of the British Museum’s collections.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
The birth of archaeology
The formation of museums
Inspired by the past