Das Glas vom Gleis – Archäologie der Bagdadbahn unter kolonialen Vorzeichen

Funding area:
Colonial contexts
Funding recipient:
Leibniz-Zentrum für Archäologie
Federal state:
Type of project:
long-term project
Project duration:

Between 1903 and 1918, the so-called Baghdad Railway was built in the Ottoman Empire to connect Konya with Baghdad. This was done with massive financial contribution as well as planning and technical participation of the German Empire and German companies, which is why the railway line was considered one of the largest German infrastructure projects at the time. It was also celebrated as a masterpiece of engineering technology due to the complex route driving through mountain ranges. Undoubtedly, archaeological finds were also recovered during the construction of the line.

More than 60 glass vessels of Roman, early Byzantine and early Islamic date are part of the collection of the Leibniz-Zentrum für Archäologie in Mainz (LEIZA). They have been acquired by the LEIZA between 1912 and 1914 and are thought to have come from Syria. The project focuses on the question whether the glass vessels were found during the construction of the Baghdad Railway and how they were transferred from Syria to the West. In addition, it is of interest what role the networks of developers, authorities, diplomatic and political representatives, museums and scientific societies played in the recovery and distribution of the finds. How did the cooperation with local antiquities dealers work? What role did forced labourers play on the construction site of the Baghdad Railway? How was the transfer of antiquities to Europe perceived in the countries of origin, how was it assessed by those responsible for collections in the Ottoman Empire? And can other archaeological (glass) objects from the construction of the Baghdad Railway be found in German or European collections?

The aim of the project is to identify those individuals, structures and mechanisms that were responsible for the recovery of archaeological finds and the trade in ancient objects between the German Empire and Syria, which was then under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. The project is characterised by an interdisciplinary approach: The historical provenance research of archival sources is the main focus, but at the same time an archaeological analysis of the objects is carried out in an accompanying project. Among other things, comparative studies and an assessment of the known sites in northern Syria will be used to assure the provenance of the pieces and identify possible regions of discovery. Finally, a scientific analysis of the chemical composition of the glass will be carried out in order to gain insights into the provenance.


Dr. Jörg Drauschke

Anna Georgiev M.A.

Prof. Dr. Susanne Greiff

Dr. Constanze Höpken

Dr. Florian Schimmer

(c) Leibniz-Zentrum für Archäologie