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Near and Middle East

The terms Near East and Middle East do not have precise definitions. Broadly speaking they are used to define the region where Africa, Europe and Asia meet. Standing at the crossroads between continents, this region has an enormously complex history. 

The characters associated with the Oriental Museum’s Ancient Near Eastern collections read like a Who’s Who of early 20th Century archaeology. Through his wide ranging network of contacts Prof Thacker was able to secure collections for the museum from Sir Leonard Woolley’s excavations at Ur; from Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations at Jericho; from the excavations at Lachish sponsored by Henry Wellcome; and from a number of other sites. There is even a single brick dated to Nebuchadnezzar II, the Babylonian ruler mentioned in the biblical Book of Daniel, excavated by Lawrence of Arabia and passed by him to Gertrude Bell! 

Thanks to Henry Percy, eldest son of the 7th Duke of Northumberland, the Northumberland Collection also includes a significant number of Near Eastern seals and tablets inscribed with the cuneiform script. In addition to the ancient material there is a small collection of objects dating to the Christian era including ceramics, metal crucifixes and tombstones. 

The museum’s collections from the Islamic Period are relatively small, but include fine examples of calligraphy and medieval and post-medieval ceramics as well as works in jade and bronze. Artefacts in this collection come mainly from Syria, Iran and Turkey.

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