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Progress, Design, and Hyperreal Spectacle The Ancient Near East in Nineteenth-Century Expos, Fairs, and Geographical Amusements

As Near Eastern archaeology developed into an academic discipline throughout the nineteenth century, it led to serious considerations on the relationships between those ancient civilizations and contemporary cultures. Issues of progress and decline were particularly paramount as citizens of the European and North American powers considered what the collapse of ancient civilizations implied about the present. Related to these concerns were interests in material and technological progress, and thus the materiality of the ancient Near East became a subject of debate in regard to contemporary design. Here are explored some of the ways that ancient Egypt and the Near East were presented in these hyperreal spectacles, why the past was so fundamental to discussions of the present and future in the nineteenth century, and why comparative geographical approaches to the topic have been so compelling for nonacademic audiences.