Joseph M. Upton, 80, a retired State Department analyst and a specialist in Near East culture for art museums and other institutions, died of cardiac arrest Sept. 26 at the home of relatives in Bennington, Vt.

Mr. Upton, who lived in Pawlet, Vt., was stricken while traveling to Washington on an assignment for the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery of Art.

A former Washington resident, he continued his association with the Freer Gallery after leaving this area in 1956, when he retired as a Near East analyst with the State Department. He had joined the State Department in 1946, after serving with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II.

Mr. Upton was born in Fitchburg, Mass. He earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Harvard University and did graduate work there before joining the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

For 20 years before World War II, he specialized in Near East studies and went on archeological expeditions, particularly in Iran, under the Metropolitan Museum's auspices.

Besides the Freer Gallery, Mr. Upton also worked on assignments for Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Survivors include two sisters, Dorothy C. Upton and Mrs. Stowers L. Curry, both of Falls Church.