Phone: +44 (0)20 7323 8308
Department of the Middle East
The British Museum
Great Russell Street
The Department of the Middle East covers the ancient and contemporary civilisations and cultures of the Middle East from the Neolithic period until the present.
It holds a wide range of archaeological material and ancient art from Mesopotamia (Iraq), Iran, the Levant (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel); Anatolia (Turkey), Arabia, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Highlights of the collection include Assyrian reliefs, treasures from the Royal Cemetery of Ur, the Oxus Treasure, Phoenician ivories and Ashurbanipal's library of cuneiform tablets from Nineveh.
The Islamic collection includes archaeological assemblages from Iraq, Iran and Egypt as well as collections of inlaid metalwork from medieval Iran, Syria and Egypt and Iznik ceramics from Turkey. Ethnographic collections from the Middle East and Central Asia are also held by the department. These include textiles, furnishings, jewellery and other objects related to daily life.
In addition to Persian, Turkish and Mughal Indian works on paper, the department holds a major collection of contemporary art from the Middle East.
History of the collection
- Paul Collins – Keeper, Department of the Middle East
- Uxue Rambla Eguílaz – Project and Cultural Heritage Manager: The Girsu Project
- Irving Finkel – Assistant Keeper, Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures
- James Fraser – Assistant Keeper (Curator), Ancient Levant and Anatolia
- Nancy Highcock – Curator, Ancient Mesopotamia
- Zeina Klink-Hoppe – Phyllis Bishop Curator for the Modern Middle East
- John MacGinnis – Lead Archaeologist, Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Programme
- Sebastien Rey – Assistant Keeper (Curator), Mesopotamia
- St John Simpson – Assistant Keeper (Curator), Iran, Central Asia and Arabia
- Jonathan Taylor – Assistant Keeper (Curator), Cuneiform Collections
The work of the department is supported by a team of Collection Managers and administrative staff.
The Department of the Middle East is actively involved in research on the collections and the cultures represented by them.
This varies from excavations and fieldwork to studying, investigating and cataloguing the extensive collection of Middle Eastern material here at the Museum.
There are about 300,000 objects in the department's collection. A representative selection, including the most important pieces, is on display and totals some 4,500 objects.
See below for information about current projects being undertaken by staff in the Department of the Middle East.
The Iraq scheme
The British Museum takes an active role in communicating the importance of Iraq's archaeological and historical legacy.
This is achieved through gallery talks, lectures and study days within the Museum and in the broader community.
Since 2015 the Museum has run a major training scheme, helping Iraqi colleagues develop their archaeological skills.
After the destruction of heritage sites in Iraq and Syria, we're working with staff from the Iraq State Board of Antiquities on a wide variety of retrieval and rescue archaeology techniques.