Diplomacy: America Begins Archaeology

As American scholars learned with the Assos excavations (1881-83) and the Wolfe Expedition (1884-85), archaeology involves more than just digging in the ground – it requires diplomacy to overcome bureaucratic obstacles.  To secure the permit to excavate at Nippur, Penn faculty developed a close relationship with Osman Hamdi Bey, Director of the Imperial Museum, who had drafted the Ottoman antiquities law, and by whose authority they were allowed to bring artifacts to Philadelphia.  Following a model established by French archaeologists, Penn issued Hamdi Bey an honorary degree in 1894 and membership in its University Archaeological Association in 1895. Penn also lent the expertise of Hermann Hilprecht to the Imperial Museum and eventually acquired two paintings by Hamdi Bey. Before befriending Hamdi Bey, however, the Americans often encountered difficulties negotiating their way through unfamiliar bureaucratic and geographic terrain.