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|w 36 CNRS Networks cnrs I international magazine Lebanon A local institute acts as a study and research hub in all fields relating to the ancient and modern civilizations of the Near East. A Middle-East Observatory in Beirut by Vahé Ter Mi nassian “Do you see the earring?” asks archaeologist Julien Chanteau, as he points to a tiny bronze ring on the side of the skull of a partially excavated child’s skeleton. Dating from the sixth to fourth century BC, the tomb is the twentieth discovered by a team from the Ifpo (Institut français du Proche-Orient) at a “rescue excavation” site in the center of Beirut (Lebanon). Initiated at the request of the country’s Ministry of Culture’s Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA), the site, which is soon due to host a twenty-story high-rise, is in the middle of an area of necropolises dating from the Phoenician, Hellenistic and Roman periods. The archaeologists must therefore move fast to recover all historical remains before the property developers’ bulldozers move in. The primary role of the Ifpo is to carry out research in Middle Eastern countries in collaboration with local universities and academic institutions, as well as help researchers who wish to work there. Based in Beirut, the Ifpo is one of the 27 French research institutes abroad (UMIFRE)1 jointly managed by the CNRS and the French 01 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and “one of the most exciting to run,” adds its director, Eberhard Kienle. Located on the grounds of the French Embassy in Beirut’s Damascus Street, the Ifpo has branches in prestigious locations, including one in Amman (Jordan) and, since 2012, another two in Erbil (Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, Iraq) and East Jerusalem (covering the Palestinian Territories). In its Syrian premises of Aleppo and Damascus (which houses a remarkable and world-renowned library), the institute’s activities were temporarily suspended when the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011. Dedicated to research in the humanities and social sciences, the Ifpo also has its own publishing house, “Presses de l’Ifpo,” with 600 titles already available (catalog and online), as well as a multimedia library in Beirut. The Ifpo was created in 2003 from the merger of three main institutes present in the Middle East: the Institut français d’études arabes de 01 A terracotta sarcophagus in its loculus discovered during rescue excavations in Beirut (July 2011). 02 The Jerash mission in Jordan oversees the restauration of a temple dedicated to Zeus. 02 © IFPO © H. DAVID-CUNY /IFPO


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