Journal cover Journal topic
Proceedings of the ICA
Journal topic
Articles | Volume 3
06 Aug 2021
 | 06 Aug 2021

Mapping Damascus during the First World War. A German-Ottoman Cooperation of Cartography, Archaeology and Military?

Sebastian Willert

Keywords: Damascus, Ottoman Empire, Cartography, Monument Protection, First World War

Abstract. In 1916, the German museum director and archaeologist Theodor Wiegand travelled to the Near East and became “Inspector General of Antiquities in Syria” as head of the 19th Bureau within the IV Ottoman Army under Ahmed Cemal Pasha. In the post-war period the formation was called “German Turkish Commando for Monument Protection”, though it consisted mainly of German archaeologists and architects who dedicated themselves to the preservation of antique sites and the collection of antiquities. To investigate the region, the scientists also used Bavarian Flying-Detachments and had aerial photographs taken. The Commando enquired, preserved, and surveyed ancient sites. However, the scientists were also involved in mapping important sites and cities such as Damascus. For this purpose, the archaeologists not only conducted trigonometrical surveys but also used aerial photographs to complement the results taken on the ground.

Against the background of the German-Ottoman cooperation and the involvement of experts such as archaeologists and architects, the paper analyses the – occasionally paradoxical – situation in which the actors dedicated themselves to map the city of Damascus. The contribution answers the question whether the map was developed to visualize ancient buildings and structures in Damascus for preservation purposes or was rather produced due to military objectives. In a helix of overlapping or rivalling aims and agendas of the German and Ottoman archaeology, military and politics it shows attempts, measures and intentions aiming at the production of maps during the First World War.

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