The term West Asia does not have precise definition. Broadly speaking it is 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 West Asian 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 collection 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 and in recent years the museum has actively sought - with the support of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Subject Specialist Network UK - to expand to expand its holdings to reflect current developments in the region.