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Ulrich Jasper Seetzen (1767-1811)

Inspired by Carsten Niebuhr's expeditions to Egypt, Persia and the Arabian Pensinsula, the young scholar Ulrich Jasper Seetzen (1767-1811) decided to explore Africa and the Middle East after finishing his medical training.
Seetzen intended to conduct astronomical positioning in the Middle East but neither had the necessary devices at his disposal nor was he skilled in doing so. Nevertheless, he could win over the director of the astronomical observatory in Gotha, Franz Xaver von Zach (1754-1832), and the duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Ernest II. (1745-1804) to support his plans. The latter invited Seetzen to participate in an astronomical training in Gotha and promised to finance all required devices the young explorer needed for his activities. Lastly, the hereditary prince August of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1772-1822) commissioned Seetzen to purchase natural historical artefacts, Oriental manuscripts and antiquities for an annual sum of 800 Thaler.

Seetzen set out on his journey to the Middle East in the summer of 1802 exploring Istanbul and Asia Minor, Syria, Lebanon, Jerusalem and Palestine, Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula.
He started his 9 year long expedition with learning Arabic in Syria accompanied by scientific examinations as well as topographic and ethnographic studies Seetzen's diaries provide detailed information about.

Altogether 1464 antiquities and 2700 Oriental manuscripts arrived at Friedenstein Castle by post. There is a good case to believe that one or another parcel got lost while shipped. The diplomat and Orientalist Joseph Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856) for example discovered a few Oriental manuscripts offered for sale in Vienna having Seetzen's signature and date of purchase.
During his second stay in Yemen in the summer of 1811 Seetzen's journey came to an abrupt end. The explorer lost his life mysteriously and all his acquisitions carried in 17 camel loads, filled with old South Arabian inscriptions and diverse objects of natural history and cultural artifacts were stolen and got lost.



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