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Near Eastern Archaeology

Samarra Glass

The Museum of Anthropological Archaeology could not contribute to its global mission without strong representation in the Near Eastern civilizations. The first teaching collections were received as a gift from the British Museum in the early 1920s. The first major research collection, ceramics from the Plain of Antioch, was received in the early 1930s from Robert Braidwood (who received his B.A. from Michigan) of the University of Chicago. These were given to us expressly for the graduate studies of Frederick Matson, the first technical studies ever done of the earliest Near Eastern ceramics. Thus, from the beginning, the relation between use of collections in teaching and use of collections in graduate student research was established.

Professor Henry Wright has built up a unique series of archaeological collections from the Middle East and the western Indian Ocean relevant to the evolution of complex societies in these areas. In contrast to all other collections outside the Near East, which focus on complete objects of museological value, our collections contain representative collections of discarded debris from both surveys and excavations, which can be used to answer many different questions posed by social scientists regarding past behaviors. Thanks to the generosity of the Near Eastern archaeological services, the building of these collections continues to the present. During the past five years, we have accessioned a regional survey collection from the Persian Gulf—not only ceramic sherds, but maps, air photographs, and other records. We have also recently provided a home for a survey collection from the late Bronze Age to the Islamic period in southwestern Iran with its records. Finally, the Museum recently received a collection of sherds and stone tools from excavations at the inter-regional center of Tell Brak in Syria.

Among the collections that will be particularly important for undertaking future research and testing new explanations are the following: