＜Concept map for the Research Center for West Asian Civilization＞
Overview of the Research Center
As a potential member of the Center of Excellence Program the Research Center for West Asian Civilization's research initiatives are based on the following four operations:
１．Field Project support
The center supports a wide range of field projects, which have so far been conducted by individual researchers of the University of Tsukuba, in various West Asian regions such as Iran, Turkey and Syria. It aims to facilitate and mediate communication between each project and function as a research center which assembles the latest academic information as well as technical know-how to conduct field research in the region.
２. Rescue and assistance for sites and historical resources
In response to requests from West Asian nations the centre plans to facilitate rescue projects for cultural heritage under threat and contribute to the conservation and research of archaeological sites and historical resources.
３．Workshops on West Asian Civilizations
International symposiums and local workshops are organized on a regular basis. This provides an interdisciplinary setting for researchers working on the ancient civilization of West Asia from different fields of study, including human science, in particular archaeology, history and linguistics; environmental science mainly geology and ecology; and chemical science involving material analysis and conservation of cultural property. In addition, the center promotes the exchange of researchers through the invitation of foreign researchers to Japan and by supporting Japanese researchers visiting overseas.
Field research education programs are organized for post graduate and undergraduate students through which the students are expected to acquire practical knowledge of field work. In addition, students can participate in the workshops and symposiums where they can obtain feedback of their research from professional researchers.
In modern times the regional, political, economic and cultural differences of West Asia have often been treated in an adversarial manner by the rest of the world. This background bias against Islam by western societies and the opposition to western discourse by West Asia is reflected in this clash of civilisations and in the representation of western culture as a scapegoat. In Japan, Islam and the Middle East have mainly been understood through western filters with the associated connotations of danger and difference.
For those of us who have had direct involvement in research in this area over the years and who know the richness and diversity and the social and cultural nature of Western Asian society the above viewpoint causes concern. In other words without understanding the pre-Islamic civilization of Western Asia it is difficult to understand both modern Arab and non-Arab Islamic society. In depth study of West Asian civilization shows that the development of wheat farming; urban societies and even Christianity, foundations of modern western society have their origins in Western Asia. In addition, the study of West Asian civilizations is crucial for understanding contemporary Islamic society and to use as a base to deepen mutual understanding in the modern world.
The planning initiative for this research center is to facilitate communication and information dissemination between university researchers already working in West Asia and involve early career researchers (including graduate students) in field projects and research.
The Research Centre for West Asian Civilizations is based in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences and is administered by a group of core researchers and teachers with the following roles:
・ Center Director （Akira Tsuneki）
・ Field Project Support （Yutaka Miyake）
・ Rescue & Assistance for Sites and Historical Resources （Yoko Taniguchi）
・ Organization of symposiums and workshops on West Asian Civilizations （Shigeo Yamada）
・ Education Program （Jun Ikeda）
There are a number of research organizations specializing in Islamic Studies in Japan however there is no center which focuses specifically on the environment, culture and society of pre-Islamic West Asia and the development of professional researchers in this area. In contrast, the west has a long tradition of research on the ancient history and archaeology of West Asia prior to the Islamic Period including the training and development of many distinguished scholars. This includes public education initiatives and the dissemination of significant research results to the public in various ways.
There are a number of researchers and graduate students at the university currently involved in research on the archaeology, history, culture and linguistics of West Asian Civilizations. The university also has researchers from the disciplines of plant ecology, environmental science and geology experienced in West Asian research. In establishing the Research Center for West Asian Civilizations and facilitating cooperation amongst researchers we hope to integrate the results from various projects and develop a new integrated research approach combining natural sciences and the humanities.