The Big Game

Archaeology and politics in the age of colonialism (1860-1940)

Why was there such an intensive scientific interest in ancient cultures during the 19th century? Which archaeologists were the first to undertake major archaeological digs? What was the motivation of those who commissioned and financed their research? In cooperation with international partners, this project addressed these questions in a comprehensive historic context. The exhibition portrayed the tremendous political motivation behind the European expeditions to the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa and showed how archaeological excavations were instrumentalized for colonial policy. It presented various archaeological finds and the biographies of such renowned figures as Lawrence of Arabia, Gertrude Beil and Max von Oppenheim. While the exhibition presented detailed perspectives of the colonial history of various countries, its comparative and global thematic focus represented a new development in archaeological research. The history of the finds in archaeological collections is also an issue of current interest in many European countries in light of recent demands for the return of archaeological treasures.

Project director: Charlotte Trümpler
Research assistant: Tom Stern

Schedule and venue:
12 Feb. 2010 - 13 June 2010 Zeche Zollverein, Essen


Ruhr Museum Essen

Nünnigstraße 9

45141 Essen (external link, opens in a new window)