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Orient Travels of the 19th Century and Early Archaeological Photography


Travels to foreign lands has become part of the education of European aristocrats by the 17th century and later also of the more affluent population. Soon, not only the Classical countries such as Italy, Greece and Asia Minor were the destination of this “Grand Tour”. Interest in the Eastern Mediterranean increased, which also led to travels to the Near East during the 18th century. By the beginning of the 19th century, the number of travelers that came to the Orient continued to grow. Aside from the personal desire of scattering, the greed for unbiased documents and authentic experiences was not the only reason for the travels. In a growing sense, local monuments were documented for the ones that have stayed home.

Especially in these records of topographical connections, architectures and comprehensive structural information that are no longer existing today, a special meaning can be ascribed to these early orient travels and their documentary value in an art historical and archaeological sense. They further mirror the growing interest of Europe for the region and support the various influences of the orient on European art history. The acquisition of antiquities by these travelers and their “excavations” marks the starting point of archaeological research of the Near East in a western-Christian set of values that strongly influences the scientific methodology and the evaluation of the finds.

A comprehensive digitalization of the mostly unknown early architecture and object photographies in a specialized internet based image database that simplifies the scientific work and allows the use for the public, is part of the project. The evaluation of these photographic records as an aid in art historical and archaeological investigations of Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean is to be supplemented by a reflected research of the function, meaning and change of photography as a visual medium within scientific discourse. – On my initiative, the digital storage of the unpublished photographic archive material of Max Freiherr von Oppenheim was made subject of a cooperation project of the Archive of the Bank Sal. Oppenheim Jr. & Cie. KGaA and the Research Archive of Ancient Sculpture of the Archaeological Institute of the University of Cologne.

Supervision: Priv.-Doz. Dr. Werner Oenbrink



  • Römische Architektur im Hauran. Zustand und Erhaltung im Spiegel früher Zeichnungen und Photographien am Beispiel des Tyche-Heiligtums von as-Sanamein, in: T. Mattern [Hrsg.], Munus. Festschrift für Hans Wiegartz [2000] 189 ff.
  • Hermann Burchardt [1857-1909]. Reisender und Photograph des ausgehenden 19. Jahrhunderts. – Reisen in den Orient vom 13. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert. Kolloquium der Winckelmann-Gesellschaft Stendal und der Cast Gallery, Ashmolean Museum Oxford vom 29.9. – 1.10.2003. Schriften der Winckelmann-Gesellschaft Stendal Bd. XXVI (2007) 203-223. 283-285 Abb. 116-129.