Born in Luxembourg, he was graduated from the Ecole libre des sciences politiques and of the Ecole des langues orientales, Paris. He acquired the French nationality in 1912. Assistant curator of the Musée Guimet, he became later curator. After several archeological missions in Afghanistan, he was appointed director of the Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan in 1934.
During the excavations conducted by Hackin and his team in Begram, between 1937 and 1940, an exceptional treasure of the Kushan period (1st-2nd century A.D.) was unearthed. It included a large number of Roman bronze, alabaster, Syrian glass, coins, Chinese lacquer bowls, and the famous "Begram ivories".
In October 1940, with his wife, Marie Hackin, he joined the Free French Forces in London. Appointed personal representative of the General de Gaulle in India and surrounding countries, he perished with his wife when their transport ship, "Jonathan Holt", was sank by a German torpedo near the Faroe Island, 24 February 1941.
- Gilles Rossignol, in preface to René Dollot, Afghanistan 1934-1936, Paris, Ceredaf, 2017, pp. 21-22.
- Exhibition : De l’Asie à la France libre. Joseph et Marie Hackin, archéologues et compagnons de la Libération, Paris, 15 June-16 September 2018 (Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération, Musée de l’Armée, Musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet).
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