From Supervision to Independence in Archaeology: The Comparison of the Iranian and the Afghan Strategy

in “Masters” and “Natives”


The studies conducted in the last two decades usually focused on the Western cultural policies in foreign countries where there were none or few local institutions at the beginning of the twentieth century. The purpose of the chapter is to show that the host states were neither passive nor dominated. To illustrate this idea, I take the example of Iran and Afghanistan, from the end of World War I to 1984. Indeed, the two neighbouring states chose opposite strategies to develop the archaeological potential of their territories. Their final goal was scientific independence. However, where Iran used its capacities of negotiation to build an ultra-nationalist archaeology, Afghanistan decided to consider archaeology an international affair and to widen its institutional and scientific network. This essay is a first attempt to explain how and why such a difference between the two choices exists.

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