Legacies of the Levant - excavating the account of the 1937-1948 Ksâr Akil archaeological expeditions

Name of applicant

Andreas Nymark


Department of Anthropology, Harvard University


DKK 820,000



Type of grant

Internationalisation Fellowships


Between 1937-1948 archaeological excavations at the Old Stone Age site of Ksâr 'Akil in Lebanon produced an incredible 3,000,000 artefacts. Predicted to become the most important site in terms of knowledge about the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition in the Levant, a chain of events resulted in only smaller parts of the excavated material being published. Over the years, as the main protagonists eventually passed away, definitive publication contextualising the entire archaeological collections were never realised. Now, with the help of their surviving field notes and excavational records, the story of the archaeologist's decisions in the field can help restore an understanding of how the site was dug, how material was classified and catalogued, thrown away, and why.


The collections contain stone tools, animal bones, shellfish, and very rare modern human remains. Some parts of this material are located in the US, other parts in Europe. These archaeological collections are not associated with their full contextual field information, and therefore have reduced potential for scientific knowledge production. By articulating the excavated material culture with their original contextual information, these collections will finally realise their true potential, both of the site of Ksâr 'Akil, and for the whole of Levantine prehistory. Specifically, the possibility for interdisciplinary research through the combination of data from stone tools, animal bones, and shellfish are expected to significantly compliment the studies of human behavioural evolution.


The project will collate the huge unpublished archive of excavation records, diaries and letters relating to Ksâr 'Akil providing an account of the history of the excavations and a presentation of the excavators' fieldnotes, section drawings, observations, and discussions about the processed data. This will take place at Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and Harvard University. A two-volume monograph will be published with the results.

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