Detailed objectives of the Bareo project
1. Organisation of material for best preservation and maximum exploitability:
A detailed inventory of the Near Eastern and Iranian material held in the three participating institutions will be compiled. This material is constituted of artefacts, animal and plant specimens, human bones, photographs, expedition archives, field records, collection annotations. A room in the RMAH will be dedicated to the storage of this archive, classified by site.
2. Improving accessibility of data for researchers:
An easy and complete access to this material will be provided for researchers and other potential users by the development of a database.
3. Multi-disciplinary scientific exploitation:
Multi-disciplinary studies of particularly significant or emblematic aspects of these collections, combining the archaeological knowhow of the RMAH, the bioarchaeological expertise of the RBINS and the archaeological and historical expertise of Ghent University, will be conducted.
3.1. History and impact of Belgian archaeological missions in the Near East and Iran (RMAH/RBINS/UGent)
A thorough study of the literature available and the archival resources will be carried out in order to document the history of Belgian archaeological and bio-archaeological research (archaeozoology, archaeobotany, physical anthropology) in the Near East. The goal is to present as broad a view as possible of this facet of our national history and to define context, motivations and scientific and societal impact based on contemporary sources. It will as such attempt to present a complete picture of the accomplishments in this field of research.
These various questions will be addressed in the light of the available documentation: archives, press releases, old publications and oral testimonies from the actors of this history. The oral corpus will bring new light on the written sources, in some cases fill gaps in the documentation and offer a vivid image of near-eastern missions to the public. This study will result in the publication of a monograph on the role of Belgian archaeological missions in the Near East and Iran.
3.2. Tell Kannas and the Uruk question (RMAH/RBINS)
From 1967 to 1974, a Belgian team led by André Finet (ULB) worked on a rescue project at Tell Kannas in the Middle Euphrates area in Syria. At the end of the excavations, part of the collected objects was offered to the RMAH. To date, this material, as well as the overall results obtained on the site, has not been published in a final form, depriving scholars of vital information. In this research, the stratigraphy and architectural remains of the Uruk occupation level will be studied and an exhaustive catalogue of all objects and ceramics will be established. This study will lead to the publication of scientific studies which will, following a forty years wait, finally offer the scientific community access to all the information relative to this key site of Mesopotamian history.
3.3. Iranian rock relief project (UGent/RMAH/RBINS)
The photographic archive and fieldnotes on the Iranian rock relief project of the late L. VandenBerghe include an important group of Elamite rock reliefs and inscriptions that since have deteriorated due to natural elements and sometimes also deliberate human activities. These unique data will be studied in detail and a full electronic access of the photographic archive and field notes on the Iranian rock reliefs will be provided.
3.4. Paleoenvironmental studies (RBINS/UGent/RMAH)
Faunal material and archives are stored in RBINS and UGent, coming from the 1980’s and 1990’s yearly excavations carried out by a Belgian mission at ed-Dur (United Arab Emirates) in what initially was an international collaboration, but which finally became an exclusively Belgian enterprise. Bioarchaeological materials (animal and plant remains, human skeletons) were collected with great care but have only partially been studied and published. In particular the faunal remains deserve further attention and have a great potential because they will act as a reference for the exploitation of the terrestrial and, in particular, the marine resources in the Arabo-Persian Gulf for which this site is the richest in faunal remains.
Ivory plates from Nimrud conserved in the RMAH will be re-examined by the RBINS team in order to establish the type of ivory used. Earlier re-analysis of ivory objects from Mesopotamian collections have shown that not only elephant, but also hippopotamus tusks were used as raw material. The relative importance of both taxa will be evaluated in the light of earlier findings and the results will be discussed in an interdisciplinary paper, addressing the factors that determined the availability of these ivories (natural distribution of species, trade and exchange mechanisms).
Unanalysed material from the site of Lehun (Jordan) consisting of animal bones and samples will be studied and published.
4. Enhancing the visibility and societal impact of the collections:
To valorise and enhance the profile of the Ancient Near Eastern and Iranian holdings of the federal institutions a web site, online publications, exhibits, conferences and publications addressing both stakeholders in the field and the general public will be prepared.
This project proceeds from a will of the institutions involved to re-appropriate their history and revalue their heritage. The collections and archives in their possession are precious testimonies of this history; they not only allow us to address various aspects of Belgium’s archaeological past but also to reflect on the future of this discipline. Telling the story of Belgian archaeology in the Near East is first and foremost raising the question of the place that our country occupies in the international context of this discipline. It is also telling the story of its various actors, archaeologists, researchers, of the institutions that developed it, supported it, financed it and now are entrusted with the conservation of the collections issuing form these expeditions. It is also evaluating the impact that they had on Belgian society in parallel with the way they were perceived by local communities and archaeological instances in the countries where they took place. Finally, at a time when archaeological research is all but stopped in several countries of the Near-East, it is undertaking a reflection on the future of Belgian archaeology in these countries.