The British Institute at Ankara (BIAA) was founded in 1947 and incorporated in the 1956 cultural agreement between the Republic of Turkey and the United Kingdom. It is internationally renowned for conducting world-class research in Turkey and the Black Sea region in the humanities and social sciences. As one of the British International Research Institutes (BIRI), the BIAA facilitates the work of UK academics in Turkey, and promotes collaborations with scholars based in Turkey and the Black Sea region. It has offices in Ankara and London, and a dedicated staff of experts from diverse disciplinary backgrounds.
to enable UK scholars across the humanities and social sciences to undertake world-class original research and fieldwork focused on Turkey and the Black Sea littoral region;
to encourage and facilitate collaborative research with other UK institutions and with scholars and institutions in Turkey and the Black Sea littoral region;
to maintain a centre of research excellence in Ankara focused on the archaeology, history, contemporary studies and related subjects of Turkey.
The BIAA is a registered UK Charity, observed by a Council of Management in the UK. Its premises in Ankara are maintained by a small administrative and research staff, providing a Centre for Research Excellence for post-doctoral fellows, research scholars and visiting researchers. Archaeologist Dr Lutgarde Vandeput has been the Director of the BIAA since 2006 and political scientist Dr Leonidas Karakatsanis serves as the Assistant Director (2015–2018). [See current academic and research staff here]
The Institute uses its financial, practical and administrative resources to support and/or conduct high-quality research focused on Turkish history, society and culture from prehistory to the present day. Particular attention is paid to the idea of Turkey as a crossroads, to Turkey’s interactions with the Black Sea region and its other neighbours, and to Turkey as a distinctive creative and cultural hub from a global and regional perspective. The BIAA supports a number of projects under the auspices of its Strategic Research Initiatives, which reflect current research concerns within the international and UK academic communities.
Current Strategic Research Initiatives are:
The BIAA has directly organised or funded numerous research projects from 1947 until today. For a full overview, visit our research page.
The Institute also offers a range of grants and fellowships to support research from post-graduate level onwards.
The institute organises academic events (public lectures, round tables, workshops and conferences) on a regular basis in Ankara and London.
The BIAA’s research programme is overseen by a research committee comprised of UK-based academics from a range of fields in the humanities and social sciences. The Committee is supported by a number of advisors and a pool of academics who offer their services as referees.
Anatolian Studies is the flagship journal of the British Institute at Ankara. It publishes work sponsored by the Institute as well as peer-reviewed articles focused on Turkey and the Black Sea littoral region in all academic disciplines within the arts, humanities, social sciences and environmental sciences as related to human occupation and history.
Heritage Turkey is a magazine-style publication which is the BIAA's annual report on the research it supports. Short articles are written by project directors and scholars and are illustrated in colour.
The BIAA also publishes scholarly monographs relating to the archaeology and history of Turkey, with a particular emphasis on publishing the results of Institute-funded research. The BIAA’s electronic monographs initiative aims to publish substantial works that are considered especially well suited to the online format. Recently the BIAA also launched two series in collaboration with I.B. Tauris on Ottoman history and contemporary Turkey.
Finally, the BIAA supports a significant number of publications every year in the wider field of archaeology-related disciplines, the humanities and the social and political sciences through fellowships or direct research funding (see supported publications here).
The centre’s library of ca. 65,000 volumes, comprising a vast collection of publications focusing on Turkey and the surrounding area, makes it one of the most renowned libraries for archaeology and related disciplines in the region. The library also includes an up-to-date and growing collection of works on Ottoman history and contemporary Turkish society and politics
In addition to publications, the institute also houses extensive research collections of pottery, botanical, and faunal and epigraphical material, maps, and photographic and fieldwork archives. Since spring 2010, all research collections have been digitised and are available online. The BIAA possesses a variety of surveying equipment which it allows members to rent. Furthermore, the institute maintains a small hostel close to its offices, in one of the most comfortable and secure areas of Ankara, where accommodation is available to members of the Institute at very affordable rates.
*Based on excerpts and summaries from Lutgarde Vandeput’s ‘The British Institute at Ankara, 60 years young’ Anatolian Studies 58 (2008): 1−14, updated until 2016
We owe the foundation of the Institute mainly to the ideas and enthusiasm of one man, John B.E. Garstang, also founder of the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Liverpool. In 1946, during the first season of excavations at Mersin after the Second World War, Garstang discussed his ideas for a British Institute with his nephew Oliver Gurney (later president of the BIAA and editor of Anatolian Studies). Garstang was also responsible for the location of the Institute. He decided that it should be founded in Ankara and not in Istanbul, unlike the other foreign schools and institutes in Turkey.
On 22 November 1947, the Turkish Council of Ministers ratified the foundation of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara and in January 1948, the inauguration ceremony took place. Garstang became the first Director of the BIAA
The BIAA Inaugural address given by the British Ambassador in Turkey Sir David Kelly on January 1948, attended by the Turkish Minister of Education, Reshat Şemseddin Sirer, the BIAA Chairman, Professor Şevket Aziz Kans and John Garstang, among others.
Upon his return to England, Garstang became President of the Institute, and a Council was formed to oversee the Institute’s activities in the UK and in Turkey.
One of the council’s first decisions was to start a journal, and 1951 saw the birth of Anatolian Studies, which became the flagship publication of the institute and a point of reference for all archaeology-related disciplines in the region.
Meanwhile, in 1949 Seton Lloyd, who had previously been working in Baghdad, became the second Director in Ankara. Like his predecessor, Seton Lloyd was an active field archaeologist that surveyed in Harran and Alanya and led excavations in several sites (Polatlι, Sultantepe, Beycesultan).
Seton Lloyd and secretary in the 1950s
Although the main focus of the Institute in its early years clearly lay within the area of prehistoric archaeology, other important research projects were also initiated. Among them were surveys in Cilicia on Classical and especially post-Classical remains, studies on medieval Harran, the uncovering and restoration of the 13th-century wall paintings in the Hagia Sophia of Trebizond and significant epigraphical surveys of the country (see BIAA projects for details on these excavations and surveys).
In 1961, Michael Gough was appointed the third Director of the institute, developing further its commitment to the study of the Byzantine period, with excavations at the monastic complex at Alahan and at Dağ Pazarı.Meanwhile, James Mellaart, Assistant Director of the institute from 1957 to 1961, started excavations at the site of Çatalhöyük. His project resulted in the unearthing of an unexpectedly sophisticated Neolithic town, whose spectacular mural art, the oldest as yet known, changed our way of thinking about the civilisation of that period.
In 1968, David French was appointed the fourth Director of the Institute and remained in the post for 25 years. He presided over the Institute’s heyday, overseeing a large staff at Ankara and a wide range of projects.
Rescue excavations at the sites of Aşvan Kale and Tille Höyük attracted most of the institute’s focus during the 1970s and 1980s. At those sites, French employed radically new archaeological methods—such as dry-sieving and, especially, flotation—that would become exemplary for later archaeological excavations.
Among other projects of the period were the large-scale survey of Pisidia by Stephen Mitchell (later, honorary secretary of the Institute), the survey of the Classical city of Oinoanda and neighbouring city of Balboura in Lycia and the excavations at Amorium.
In the field of epigraphy, David French conducted a large-scale survey of the milestones of Asia Minor, resulting in a major reference work, while David Hawkins (President of the BIAA since 2009), continuing Garstang’s tradition, began a second long-term epigraphical project on the Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions.
David French (right) during the survey of milestones of Asia Minor
Under David French’s directorship, a significant expansion of the institute’s library and reference collections—including pottery sherds, epigraphic squeezes, and botanical and faunal specimens—transformed the institute from primarily a base for excavations and field projects into a major regional research centre serving a range of archaeology-related disciplines.
In 1993, David French retired, having consolidated the Institute’s position as a major international research hub for Anatolian archaeology. Anthropologist David Shankland acted as director from 1993 to 1995, before Roger Matthews was appointed the fifth Director of the BIAA in 1996.
During his time in office the institute undertook a major reorganisation of available resources, resulting in a significant reduction of staff in Ankara, counterbalanced by greater financial support given to a large range of archaeological and other projects, including the Ancient Paphlagonia Survey (Çankırι), the Kerkenes Dağ Survey, the Madra Çay Survey (Ayvalık), the Çatalhöyük Excavations, and the Amorium Excavations.
In 1998, the institute celebrated 50 years in Turkey, as reflected in the volume Ancient Anatolia, edited by Roger Mathews. The book contains contributions by many of the archaeologists who worked under the auspices of the institute in the previous years.
In 2001, Hugh Elton was appointed the sixth Director of the Institute. He launched the Göksu Archaeological Project in the south of Turkey, in an area earmarked for flooding by the Mut dam. The project aimed at revealing changing settlement patterns in the river valley and the uplands via a multi-period survey employing novel methodological approaches and survey techniques.
During the second half of the 1990s and the early 2000s, both the geographical and the disciplinary areas covered by institute projects gradually grew. This was reflected in the sponsorship of excavations in Georgia (ancient Apsaros and Pichvnari), the anthropological and ethnographic work of David Shankland at Çatalhöyük, support for projects on climate history and the Genoese legacy in the Black Sea, and the architectural study of the Ottoman House.
In 2004, during Hugh Elton’s directorship, the name of the institute changed from the ‘British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara’ to the ‘British Institute at Ankara’ in order to reflect the new cross-disciplinary direction of research.
In 2006, Lutgarde Vandeput was appointed the seventh Director of the BIAA, undertaking the task of developing further this major expansion of the institute across the humanities and the social and political sciences.
In the field of archaeology-related disciplines, this period saw the continuation of the institute’s support to several excavation and survey projects throughout Turkey and the development of new research directions, including a focus on the climate history of Anatolia from a longue-durée perspective, and the adoption of new up-to-date methodologies.
During this period, cultural heritage management and public archaeology became a major ‘umbrella project’ of the BIAA. Since 2013, the institute has run a large cultural heritage management project that concentrates on the ancient city of Aspendos and the ancient region of Pisidia in SW Turkey.
In the field of history, and the social and political sciences, the institute has expanded its focus from the Ottoman period to contemporary society and politics, with a growing number of projects and events led by the institute’s assistant directors or research fellows. These projects include: Frontiers of the Ottoman World, On the Cusp, Balkan Futures, and From Enemies to Allies: Turkish-British relations 1914-1952.
During this period, significant efforts were also made to foster links between the different disciplines supported by the institute, as reflected in the research initiative “Divisions, Connections and Movements – Rethinking Regionality”, which aimed at bringing together not only scholars from different archaeology-related disciplines, but also historians, anthropologists and political scientists in order to exchange views on the development of borders, roads and mobility from the Neolithic times until today.
For further reading on the history of the BIAA, please see:
You can also watch:
a presentation given by Professor Stephen Mitchell at the Anglo-Turkish Institute, October 25th 2012, about the work of the British Institute at Ankara.
an 2012 Interview with Geography PhD student Samantha Allcock (Plymouth University) on studying and doing research at the BIAA Watch >>
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