This month's post is on trowelblazers.com, where I've written a piece about archaeologist Marie-Louise Berges Garstang! I didn't have much to go on - her husband John Garstang is much more well known - but thankfully historical newspapers helped illuminate her activities a bit. Do check it out! Read "Marie Garstang - Meroe to Mersin in the Middle of it All" here.
By Amara Thornton
A very short post this month to draw your attention to my latest article. 'Filming A Biblical City' was published at the beginning of this month in History Today's recently launched online platform 'Miscellanies'. The article explores the history behind the creation of Lachish - City of Judah, a film made in the 1930s to document the Wellcome Marston Archaeological Expedition to the Near East's excavation of Tell Duweir. Hope you enjoy it!
By Amara Thornton
This month's post is on the Filming Antiquity blog, where I've put together footage of urban spaces captured in the Harding films. These sequences show Amman, Jerash, Jerusalem and Gaza as they were in the 1930s when Gerald Lankester Harding encountered them. Accompanying the footage are some further details on the 1930s context of the films, and some wonderful images from the Horsfield and Harding archives at the Institute of Archaeology. You can read "Filming the City" here.
Also recently added to the Filming Antiquity blog is a fantastic guest post from Caitlin O'Grady, Lecturer in Conservation at the Institute of Archaeology. Caitlin takes us through footage showing conservation practice (much of it done by women) in the 1930s and 1950s, using sequences from three separate films, all digitised through the Filming Antiquity project. Read Caitlin's blog "Sticking, Mending and Restoring: the conservator's role in archaeology" here.
By Amara Thornton
Over on the Filming Antiquity blog I've been contemplating empty film canisters in the Harding collection through research and filming. Far from being objects denuded of their original purpose (containing film stock), these canisters are still meaningful, drawing out a narrative of supplies and shopping in 1930s Jerusalem and Cairo. Read the post and view the film here.
By Amara Thornton
Over the past year (and change) I've been working with a great team of collaborators on a digitisation project called Filming Antiquity, which was funded in spring 2014 to digitise and research the home movies of the British archaeologist Gerald Lankester Harding. Harding's footage shows his experiences on site in British Mandate Palestine during the 1930s, and we have recently put together some clips from the footage which you can watch on YouTube here. For further information about the clips featured, check out our latest Filming Antiquity blog post "Filming Antiquity Presents...". Comments are welcome!
By Amara Thornton
I recently acquired a rather exciting postcard. Seriously. Wandering through the Ephemera Society fair with some archaeologist-chums, we came across a postcard stall with exquisitely categorised postcards – the cataloguer’s dream. Helpfully, there was an “Archaeology” section. Among endless images of late 19th/early 20th century Stonehenge and Avebury I found one postcard that set my geek-heart a-flutter.
I researched the early history of British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem (BSAJ) during my PhD, so finding a postcard with images of the famous Galilee Skull, uncovered during BSAJ student Francis Turville-Petre's excavations in 1925, was fairly fabulous. It is a British Mandate-era postcard, dating to between 1925 and 1948, during which time the League of Nations had established the British Mandate in Palestine. The “Palestine Museum” of the credit line was an entity that only existed at that particular period of time. (It is now called the Rockefeller Museum, and housed in British architect Austen Harrison’s beautiful late 1930s purpose-designed building near Herod’s Gate in Jerusalem.)
In 1925 the British Mandate was still fairly new, and the Palestine Museum was in an intermediate phase – collections acquired under the pre-Great War Ottoman-era regime were being re-presented and enhanced under British Mandate auspices. The Museum was open to the public, though, and once the skull made its way to Jerusalem from where it was discovered at Tabgha, near the sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias), it was put on special exhibition at the Museum for five days with other objects found during the excavation.
The Galilee Skull is currently considered to be 250,000-350,000 years old. It caused quite a sensation when it was found. Local excitement over the discovery was even captured in diaries of British residents in Palestine. The Palestine Post recorded that, in the event of the Museum being flooded with visitors to see the skull on display, access would be limited to 20 people at a time and a small entrance fee charged for afternoon visits.
Subsequently, the skull was sent to London for further examination. A “preparator” in the Natural History Museum's Geology Department, Frank Oswell Barlow, created a replica of the Galilee Skull that was to be displayed at the British Museum for the benefit of the British public. Casts of the skull were also made in London for use in other museums. By January 1926, the excavated Galilee Skull had been returned to Jerusalem where it was again put on special display in the Palestine Museum. It remained one of the Museum’s premier exhibits in the years that followed.
Francis Turville-Petre himself had published the two images featured on the postcard in his report on the Tabgha excavations in the BSAJ’s Bulletin No. 7 (1925), which was circulated to the School's subscribers. But in the postcard, it is clear that the Palestine Museum used the potential for marketing this find created. By turning the Galilee Skull photographs into a retail item the Museum made these images, and the BSAJ, potentially much more visible and accessible to the general public.
As with many things in life, the postcard raises more questions than gives answers – how many were printed, sold and sent, and what other finds made it to postcard form might be a starting point. What I’d also really like to know is how many personal archives of those tourists to or residents of Mandate Palestine might contain such ephemeral treasures?
Bar-Yosef, O. & Callendar, J. 1997. A Forgotten Archaeologist: The Life of Francis Turville-Petre. Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 129: 2-18.
Gibson, S. 1999. British Archaeological Institutions in Mandatory Palestine 1917-1948. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 131: 115–143.
Palestine Post. 1925. Palestine From Day to Day. Palestine Post [Online], 12 July. Historical Jewish Press.
Palestine Post. 1925. Earliest Man. Palestine Post [Online], 20 November. Historical Jewish Press.
Palestine Post. 1926. Palestine From Day to Day. Palestine Post [Online], 6 January. Historical Jewish Press.
St. Laurent, B. with Taşkömür, H. 2013. The Imperial Museum of Antiquities in Jerusalem, 1890-1930: An Alternate Narrative. Jerusalem Quarterly 55: 6-45.
Tubb, J. and Cobbing, F. 2005. The First Palestine Museum in Jerusalem. Mediterraneum, 5: 79-89.
Turville, Petre, F. Excavation of Two Palaeolithic Caves Near Tabgha – Preliminary Report. British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem Bulletin No. 7: 99-101 [Pl. IV].
 Beatrice St. Laurent has charted the history of the archaeological museum in Jerusalem between the 1890s and 1930, and gives dates for the "Palestine Museum" of between 1921 and 1930, after which the name became the "Palestine Archaeological Museum" (1930-1938). Illustrating her article are several photographs from the Israel Antiquities Authority's Mandate Archives showing the exterior and interior of the Palestine Museum in the early 1920s.
N. B. Those readers interested in Middle Eastern postcards may wish to read British Museum curator St. John Simpson's blogpost on the subject. Those readers curious about Frank Barlow and his work preparing casts for museums may be interested in related documents in the Natural History Museum's archive.
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