International Workshop “Digging Up the Past” on 6 and 7 June 2024


The Zentralarchiv, in cooperation with the Antikensammlung, the Museum für Islamische Kunst, the Vorderasiatisches Museum and ANAMED – Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations an der Koç Üniversitesi İstanbul, Turkey is inviting researchers and other interested parties to participate in an international workshop titled “Digging Up the Past – Aspects of a Multi-Layered Archaeology in the Ottoman Empire from the Late 19th to the Early 20th Century” on 6 and 7 June 2024 (online).

Until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the balance of power in its various provinces was asymmetrical. A large part of the empire was under the colonial rule of the Ottomans. European powers were also present in the region and pursued their own imperial interests in a variety of ways, including the establishment of institutions that carried out archaeological excavations throughout the Ottoman Empire. Many of the artefacts from these European campaigns found their way into local museums and, by way of partage agreements, into the museum collections of the participating European nations. Some also made their way onto the global art market, ending up in collections right around the world.

The aim of this digital workshop is to initiate an international dialogue on contentious provenances of antiquities in international museum collections, with a focus on historical excavation campaigns and the trade and export practices in place at the time. Furthermore, the workshop will offer an opportunity to discuss some of the methodologies, challenges, and outcomes of provenance research on archaeological objects from the Ottoman Empire. 

Registration and Programme

The conference will be conducted via Webex, and is open to the public. The conference will be conducted in English.

There is no attendance fee, but registration is required. Please register with Birgit Sporleder viaemail (Legal.Illegal.2023[at] by 4 June 2024, indicating your name and institutional affiliation.

You can download the conference programme (PDF, 1 MB) here.


The discussions at the workshop will also contribute to a set of guidelines being prepared by the project team on how to research archaeological objects with contentious translocation histories from the Ottoman Empire in museum collections.

Research Project “Legal – Illegal?”

The workshop is organised by the research project “Legal – Illegal? The Circumstances of the Excavation and Export of Archaeological Objects from Sam'al, Didyma and Samarra in the Ottoman Empire to Berlin in the Early 20th Century” which is funded by the Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste (German Lost Art Foundation) and being carried out in collaboration with ANAMED – Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations at Koç Üniversitesi İstanbul, Turkey.