Elizabeth C. Stone, a professor of anthropology, had planned to spend the summer excavating a 2,600-year-old city surrounding an ancient citadel in eastern Turkey. But like scores of other American professors, she was forced to cancel her trip as American tanks rumbled toward Baghdad.
The war in Iraq, and the angry reactions it has aroused across the Islamic world, have disrupted work by American scholars from Tunisia to Pakistan.
In some cases, academic institutions or researchers themselves have canceled trips in response to State Department warnings of danger. In other cases, host countries have denied them study permits.
Experts say the war has caused the greatest interruption of overseas study since World War II, forcing the cancellation or postponement of hundreds of expeditions researching everything from Islamic law to the bone knives used by ancient butchers.
"I can't remember when research has been disrupted across such a wide region," said Dr. Stone, who teaches at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. "The war has left a very wide footprint."
Many professors with long experience in the region fear it could be years before hostilities subside enough to allow researchers from the United States to operate overseas as they have in the past.
"Only in the best case will conditions for research ever be as good as in the past," said Philip D. Gingerich, a University of Michigan paleontologist who has dug for ancient whale skeletons in Pakistan since the early 1970's. "Anti-American feelings have grown so strong in these populations that unquestionably it will now be more dangerous to work in many areas."
This year Professor Gingerich could not get a work permit from Pakistan, and he suspects that was because officials were unable to guarantee his safety.
In recent weeks, anger among Islamic populations has affected American research 1,900 miles to the west of Baghdad and 1,500 miles to the east. In Tunis and Cairo, American scholarly institutions and libraries temporarily closed their doors; in Yemen researchers abandoned rural sites for the safety of the capital; and in Pakistan, American scholars have been denied research permits that were freely extended in the past.
The regional crisis has unsettled the lives of hundreds of American academics. Some professors had sublet apartments in preparation for expeditions that are now suspended, and graduate students expecting those trips to yield crucial data are now having to rethink years of planning for their dissertations.
Still, many people were reluctant to dwell on their personal misfortunes.
"We can't be too concerned about our own problems â" think of the people in Iraq who are facing catastrophes," said Tony J. Wilkinson, an associate professor at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute who has worked across the region studying the canals and roads of ancient civilizations.
Included in those catastrophes were the April 11 pillaging of Iraq's National Museum and its main library. Those events horrified many scholars, who were more keenly aware than the general public of the priceless artifacts lost. Professor Stone and other academics now hope to enlist graduate students whose expeditions were canceled to work on a cataloging of items stolen from the museum to help with their recovery.
In the weeks leading to the Iraq war, the State Department warned Americans to leave or to avoid travel to 17 countries across North Africa, the Mideast and South Asia. The warnings cover all but three countries in the region: Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
At the same time, the State Department suspended the Fulbright Program in Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel, which border Iraq or are within 500 miles, causing about 40 American Fulbright scholars to abandon those countries. Last month the private group that organizes research in Jordan for American and Canadian universities shuttered its office in Amman because of security concerns and moved its staff to Cyprus, throwing into disarray the plans of some 500 scholars who work in Jordan each summer.
Several professors with decades of experience in the Islamic world said that at no time in memory, including the periods of turmoil surrounding the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the 1991 Persian Gulf war, had so many travel warnings been in effect for so many countries in the region. Kelly Shannon, a State Department spokesman, said she could neither confirm nor contradict that assertion.
Although the department has issued no travel warning for Egypt, anti-American protests outside the United States Embassy in Cairo and the adjoining American Research Center in Egypt forced the center's closure on March 20 and 23. The University of Pennsylvania ordered one graduate student to return from its archaeological site at Abydos, in southern Egypt; she was just weeks away from completing her research. Stephen P. Harvey, an assistant professor of archaeology at the University of Chicago, canceled his plans to spend this spring in Egypt with 10 students and colleagues excavating monuments erected by the Pharoah Ahmose in 1500 B.C.
"In the Arab world there is a negative feeling about the U.S. that is different than anything we felt even two years ago," Professor Harvey said.
Perhaps the most sweeping effects on American research have come in Jordan, which until recently had offered one of the friendliest work environments. But on Feb. 7, the State Department urged its diplomats to leave the country, and 15 Fulbright scholars were ordered to leave as well. Pierre M. Bikai, the Berkeley-trained director of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, shut his office and moved his staff to Cyprus.
Mr. Bikai said he hoped to reopen the office but has set no date. Although in a normal summer about 500 American scientists carry out research in Jordan, this year he expects only a handful, he said.
Gary O. Rollefson, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Whitman College in Washington, had planned to leave in May to begin work with colleagues at two sites in Jordan, but he canceled plans for one site. He still hopes to visit the second, a 13,000-year-old settlement of hunter-gatherers he discovered last year, but he is not certain that his colleagues will consider work in Jordan to be safe.
Most Jordanians "realize there's a difference between the Bush administration and individual Americans who come over there," Professor Rollefson said. "But you can't control emotions, and sometimes people just fly off the handle."
Archaeologists from several American universities have canceled expeditions to Syria, including Michael D. Danti, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who in April and May was to direct excavations of 4,000-year-old Mesopotamian structures at Tell Sweyhat, an eight-hour drive north of Damascus.
The rise of anti-American sentiments across the region has left scholars with sharply limited options for field research, Mr. Danti said. Recently hopes had been rising that Iran, long closed, was opening to American researchers, but the Iraq war has dashed them, he said.
"Turkey is touch-and-go, and Jordan is becoming more anti-American," Mr. Danti said. "For people specializing in Near Eastern cultures, the places where you can study are getting few and far between.