Acquisition and Accession Logs of the Vorderasiatisches Museum

The inventories for archaeological finds in museums are usually arranged in chronological order, based on the dates on which the museum receives the finds. However, this has not been the case for the inventories of the West Asian collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. This can partly be explained by the history of the founding of the Ancient Near East Department. Though founded in 1899 as an independent division of the Royal Museums, artefacts from the Near East were already represented in private German collections in 18th century (acquired by the likes of Philipp von Stosch). From there, they made their way to the Königliche Kunstkammer, which in 1830 became the Royal Museums (Königliche Museen zu Berlin). The first large Assyrian monuments arrived in Berlin in 1855, and Adolf Erman, director of the Egyptian Department until 1885 (when he was replaced by Friedrich Delitzsch), made a number of important acquisitions in an effort to consolidate and expand the Assyrian-Babylonian collection.

Although efforts were apparently made to make inventories of acquisitions relatively quickly, staff struggled to keep it with the workload, since only the director or staff directly under him were legally authorised to catalogue the finds. When large numbers of artefacts made their way to Berlin as part of the partage agreements made with representatives of the Ottoman Empire (for the last time in 1914 for Assur as part of a special agreement), the French-Syrian Mandate Administration (founded in 1920), the Iraqi Antiquities Administration (founded in 1922) and the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (from 1946), inventories were often only made once work was carried out on the onjects. This led to situations where, for example, a number of terracottas from Babylon arrived in Berlin in 1927, but were not properly catalogued until 2005. This process is still ongoing.

At one point, archaeologists made the decision to label finds from excavations by extending the original inventory number – with “Ass” short for Assur, “Bab” for Babylon, “Hab” for Habuba Kabira etc. – meaning that new inventory logs had to be created. There are thus finds from Assur that have either a VA (Vorderasiatische Abteilung, the former name of the Vorderasiatisches Museum, renamed in 1953) number or a VA Ass number. This principle was ultimately abandoned in 2014, in an attempt to establish greater clarity. Since then, archaeological finds have again been given a uniform VA call number.

The excavation finds from Samʼal (Zincirli), which the German Orient Committee helped to acquire, have been given “S” numbers. The Sam’al inventories have not been given a distinguishing number as part of the digitisation process; rather, the same acquisition period is used for all four volumes, 1888 (when the first purchase was made) to 1902 (when the last acquisition was made).

When it comes to cataloguing clay tablets, the abbreviation VAT followed by consecutive numbers was established.

Not all additional abbreviations (Ass, Bab, Hab, etc.) have since been abandoned. Researchers will continue to use the labels “VAK” for works of art, “VAG” for modern plaster casts or “VAA” for squeezes (paper impressions).

There is uncertainty about the year of acquisition for entries in the VAK inventory, since the date of production does not necessarily reflect the year of acquisition. For example, drawings by Robert Koldewey (1855–1925) may have come into the VAM as part of a bequest, meaning they might have joined the collection after the artists death, or during his lifetime. The same goes for Walter Andrae’s watercolours, which he painted in 1902. Since these acquisitions cannot be traced through the acquisition journal, 1931 has been chosen as the first date, as this was a verifiable acquisition date.

It was only in recent years that new inventories were also given dates and abbreviations, making it possible for entries to be traced in the future.

The following information is so far only available in German. A translation into English is in progress.

Erwerbungsjournal 1899-2014 (PDF, 45 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1899-2014 (Lfd.-Nr. 1899/1 – 2014/2)

Erwerbungsjournal 1899-1999 (PDF, 38 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1899-1999 (Lfd.-Nr. 1899/1 – 1999/1)

Archäologische Objekte 1 (PDF, 204 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1764-1886 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 00001-01408)

Archäologische Objekte 2 (PDF, 165 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1764-1889 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 01409-02601)

Archäologische Objekte 3 (PDF, 275 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1889-1913 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 02602-04283)

Archäologische Objekte 4 (PDF, 195 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1913 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 04284-06318)

Archäologische Objekte 5 (PDF, 289 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1926 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 06319-08733)

Archäologische Objekte 6 (PDF, 198 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1931 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 08734-10536)

Archäologische Objekte 7 (PDF, 198 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1931-1934 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 10537-12489)

Archäologische Objekte 8 (PDF, 263 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1908-1939 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 12490-14973)

Archäologische Objekte 9 (PDF, 392 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1908-2014 (Lfd.-Nr. VA 14974-17637)

Babylon 1 (PDF, 290 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1927-1927 (Lfd.-Nr. VA Bab 00001-01946)

Babylon 2 (PDF, 280 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1927-1927 (Lfd.-Nr. VA Bab 01947-04051)

Babylon 3 (PDF, 125 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1927-1927 (Lfd.-Nr. VA Bab 04052-05622)

Babylon 4 (PDF, 122 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1927-1927 (Lfd.-Nr. VA Bab 05623-07661)

Assur 1 (PDF, 268 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1926 (Lfd.-Nr. VA Ass 00001-01952)

Assur 2 (PDF, 223 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1926 (Lfd.-Nr. VA Ass 01953-04868)

Assur 3 (PDF, 364 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1926 (Lfd.-Nr. VA Ass 04869-07279)

Sendschirli 1 (PDF, 239 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1888-1902 (Lfd.-Nr. S 00001-01932)

Sendschirli 2 (PDF, 202 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1888-1902 (Lfd.-Nr. S 01933-03474)

Sendschirli 3 (PDF, 197 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1888-1902 (Lfd.-Nr. S 03475-05272)

Sendschirli 4 (PDF, 285 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1888-1902 (Lfd.-Nr. S 05273-07355)

Tontafeln 1 (PDF, 247 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1886-1887 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 00001-01416)

Tontafeln 2 (PDF, 262 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1887-1899 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 01417-02844)

Tontafeln 3 (PDF, 261 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1899-1902 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 02845-04125)

Tontafeln 4 (PDF, 304 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1902-1906 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 04126-05770)

Tontafeln 5 (PDF, 274 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1913 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 05771-07871)

Tontafeln 6 (PDF, 298 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1913-1926 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 07872-10146)

Tontafeln 7 (PDF, 270 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1913-1926 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 10147-12420)

Tontafeln 8 (PDF, 283 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1908 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 12421-13862)

Tontafeln 9 (PDF, 276 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1913-1931 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 14199-15864)

Tontafeln 10 (PDF, 344 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1939 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 15865-18656)

Tontafeln 11 (PDF, 654 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1926-1938 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 18657-22896)

Tontafeln 12 (PDF, 156 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1927-1927 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 22897-23382)

Tontafeln, Fara 13 (PDF, 111 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1906-1926 (Lfd.-Nr. VAT 12421-14198)

Abklatsche (PDF, 40 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1883-1934 (Lfd.-Nr. VAA 00001-00177)

Abgüsse 1 (PDF, 117 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1852-1929 (Lfd.-Nr. VAG 00001-00972)

Abgüsse 2 (PDF, 219 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1929-2020 (Lfd.-Nr. VAG 00973-02882)

Gemälde (PDF, 17 MB)
Nachweiszeitraum der Zugänge 1931-2018 (Lfd.-Nr. VAK 00001-00085)