The term West Asia is used to define the region where Africa, Europe and Asia meet. Standing at the crossroads between continents, this region has an enormously complex and rich history.
The Oriental Museum’s ancient West Asian collections include objects from some of the most important figures in early 20th century archaeology. The collection includes material from:
- Sir Leonard Woolley’s excavations at Ur
- The excavations at Lachish sponsored by Henry Wellcome
- Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations at Jericho, showcased in our recent online exhibition.
There is even a single brick dated to Nebuchadnezzar II, the Babylonian ruler mentioned in the biblical Book of Daniel, which was excavated by Lawrence of Arabia and given to Gertrude Bell.
Thanks to Henry Percy, eldest son of the 7th Duke of Northumberland, the collection also includes a significant number of Near Eastern seals and tablets inscribed with cuneiform writing. 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 ceramics as well as works in jade and bronze. Artefacts in this collection come mainly from Syria, Iran and Turkey. In recent years, the Museum has actively sought to collect objects that reflect modern-day West Asia with the support of the Islamic Art and Material Culture Subject Specialist Network UK.
Recent additions to the collection include contemporary works of art by Nermine Hammam, Rima Farah and Lebanese graffiti artist Phat 2, as well as material relating to contemporary Islamic faith including modern prayer rugs, prayer beads and clothing including the now iconic burkini.
As part of our recent Silk Roads project, we have been actively expanding our collections relating to Judaism. We are grateful to have received generous donations from members of the Jewish community in the North East.