The Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IMOC PAS) was established in September 2010 as a result of a merger of two renowned research institutions – the Research Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology PAS and the Centre for Studies on Non-European Countries PAS.
Research Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology PAS
The Research Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology as a PAS institution was founded by prof. Kazimierz Michałowski. The Centre was established in 1956 as a key element of the “Polish school of Mediterranean archaeology”, an interdepartamental research consortium which would manage Polish excavation research and coordinate scientific activity in this field. Institutions which closely cooperated with the Centre included divisions of the University of Warsaw: Chair of Mediterranean Archaeology and Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology in Cairo, as well as the National Museum in Warsaw.
Political changes after 1956 made it possible to resume Polish excavations in the Mediterranean area. The Research Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology PAS functioned as an institution collecting and processing excavation documentation and subsequently releasing research results in publishing series it created. On one hand, these series were devoted to particular sites, such as: Alexandria, Deir el-Bahari, Tell Atrib, Saqqara, Faras, Myrmekion, Nea Paphos and Palmyra, but also to publication of selected groups of ancient sculptures and vases: Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum, Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani. The series Travaux du Centre published monographs, and the Centre also established a journal, Etudes et Travaux.
After prof. Michałowski’s death in 1981 the partnership of the three institutions forming the “Polish school of Mediterranean archaeology” changed its nature. Restructuring of the Centre began and the conditions of cooperation with institutions of the University of Warsaw: the Institute of Archaeology and the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology also changed. Prof. Tadeusz Dzierżykraj-Rogalski became the first director of the Centre after Michałowski’ s death. In 1982 the post was taken over by prof. Karol Myśliwiec.
The Centre developed cooperation with research institutions from all over Poland, e.g. Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Archaeological Museum in Poznań, Archaeological Museum in Cracow, Institute of Classical Archaeology and Institute of Classical Philology of the University of Wrocław, as well as with the Centre or Studies on Non-European Countries PAS.
The necessity to introduce changes became even more obvious after 1989. Responsibility for some series was taken over by some other institutions, and the Centre created new ones, presenting results of work at new excavation sites in Nubia, at Saqqara and Tell Atrib. The Library of the Centre became the national leader in the field of Mediterranean archaeology, particularly in the area of archaeology of Egypt. The project of digitalization of the Centre archives was launched in recent years and work on the e-catalogue for the Library began in 2006.
The three main fields of research conducted by the Centre were: archaeology of Egypt, archaeology of Nubia, as well as archaeology of the Near East in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The research programmes of the Centre were connected with excavation projects of Michałowski’s Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology UW, as well as field work of foreign institutions conducted on Cyprus, in Egypt, Israel, Sudan and Syria. In three cases, the Centre signed formal cooperation agreements: with the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museum of Sudan, with Zinman’s Institute of Archaeology of the University of Haifa and with the Cairo Division of the German Archaeological Institute. Apart from that, it worked on a project devoted to research on sigillata pottery from French excavations on Delos with HISOMA Laboratory (UMR 5189) from Lyon. The project was a part of an agreement with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Polish Academy of Sciences, and has been continued by the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures PAS.
Centre for Studies on Non-European Countries PAS
The Laboratory of Social and Cultural Issues of Modern Africa was established in 1962 as a result of the PAS member Józef Chałasiński, and prof. Chałasiński became its director. He resigned from the post when he retired in 1974 and his responsibilities were taken over by prof. Anna Mrozek-Dumanowska (1975-1976).
In 1976 the Laboratory was reorganized as the Centre for Studies on Non-European Countries PAS and the function of the director was fulfilled by prof. Edward Szymański (1976-1981), prof. Andrzej Zajączkowski (1981-1992) and prof. Jerzy Zdanowski (1992-2010).
The Centre was established for conducting interdisciplinary research on the development of Asian, African and Latin American countries. The culture and literature of these countries were the initial fields of interest. Later the studies included social, economic and political issues, understanding of social structures, questions of religious transformation as well as intercultural communication and cooperation. From 2003 the research was conducted by three teams dealing with religion sociology, development sociology, intercultural dialogue. In 2009 the Centre undertook coordination of the participation of the Polish scientific community in the international project called African Borderlands, funded by the European Science Foundation. Its programme included a scientific conference in Johannesburg on 10th-12th September 2009, as well as many workshops in Europe in 2009-2010. More conferences and seminars were planned for 2011, and Polish cooperation with African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) is coordinated by the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures PAS.
The research conducted by the Centre for Studies on Non-European Countries resulted in publication of several dozen books and several hundred articles in Polish and foreign journals. They reflect a significant contribution to Polish studies on the development of Asian, African and Latin American countries, as well as show links to international achievements in this field of research. Their value stems from the fact that they are based on sources written in oriental languages as well as those associated with the countries and regions which they describe. As a result, they overcome the Europe-centric view on many issues related to the development of non-European countries and bring authors from outside the European cultural circle into the literature of the subject. In this manner, the publications of the Centre introduced ideologists of negritude, philosophers of Muslim fundamentalism into Polish literature, and promoted the understanding of the sociology of Mediterranean Arab countries and of Indian advocates of intercultural dialogue. The results of research which proved to be pioneering in Polish studies included beliefs and religious syncretism in Black Africa, nation-forming processes in Africa and state-forming processes in Muslim countries of the Near East. Many monographs were compiled in the Centre, e.g. the first historiography of Chinese works on the history of 19th- and 20th century China, the first history of Taiwan in Central Europe, the first history of East Arabia.
The Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures PAS is the descendant of the Research Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology and the Centre for Studies on Non-European Countries PAS, and its employees, as well as the authorities of the Institute deeply respect the achievements of both institutions and their contribution to the development of Polish science. Consequently, the Institute continues research projects launched by both Centres and cooperation with scientific institutions from all over the world.