Keywords: Henry Layard and C. Fellows- Archaeological orientalism - Cultural heritage and imperialism
The article explores some aspects of the forging of "cultural heritage" as a European and Western concept. By analyzing the travel reports and memoirs of two pioneers of the oriental archaeology - H. Layard and C. Fellows -, it debates issues and questions raised in the archaeological literature developed in Great Britain and in other European countries in the second half of the Nineteenth century, at the time European excavations spread throughout the Mediterranean regions. Using specific images and representations, this literature described the relationship between local populations and antiques as completely negative. Destructions, manipulations, ignorance and indifference to the past were constantly stressed on, as much as the idea of a supposed "oriental inability" to transform the documents of the past into an heritage to be preserved and handed down to later generations. Perceptions and uses of antiquities in the Levant contributed to shape concepts of superiority and inferiority, civilization and barbarism and to develop the discourse about civilization and its fixed borders. The idea of a Mediterranean otherness outlined on the past and on its relics - the concept of heritage - movided further arguments to the legitimacy of imperialism.