James Leslie Starkey at Lachish, Part 2 (ii)
James Leslie Starkey at Lachish, Part 2 (iii)
James Leslie Starkey at Lachish, Part 2 (iv)
Wendy Slaninka (James Leslie Starkey and Marjorie Starkey's granddaughter) continues the story of her grandfather. Read Part 1 here.
Part 2 (i): Lachish – Tell ed Duweir (Jewel of the Shephelah)
By Wendy Slaninka (Granddaughter of James Leslie Starkey & Marjorie Starkey by their daughter Mary)
This is my fifth article for the Filming Antiquity blog following on from ‘James Leslie Starkey, Archaeologist, Part 1, Background and Early Career’. It also links in with my first, second and third articles ‘Living at Lachish – Life in Camp’, ’Olive Starkey – Lady of Lachish’, (Leslie’s sister) and ‘First Lady of Lachish – Marjorie Starkey and her family’, where there is other information and photos of Leslie and Lachish.
Again, the inspiration for researching and finding out about my grandfather’s career was triggered by my Grandmother’s scrapbook mentioned in previous articles. It had languished in my mother’s sideboard for decades and it wasn’t until 2009 that I became particularly interested to investigate further. It has kept me captive ever since, gradually building on the original scrapbook – each tidbit and nugget of new information as exciting as I imagine excavating Lachish was for Grandfather – in a way I feel a sort of infinity with him as we are both in the business of digging into the past! I was also encouraged in this by Ros Henry who was Olga Tufnell’s assistant for a while in the 1950s.
I never knew my grandfather and his children were very young when he died so everything I write here about him and his work is gleaned from what others have said about him. His finds are well documented as is also the history of Lachish. As space here is limited I can only gloss over some of the facts I would like to include to give a flavour. Nevertheless it is such a large topic that to do him justice I will have to spread it over several parts. This first section will have to suffice only as an introduction to the site itself.
The man who knows and dwells in history adds a new dimension to his existence, he no longer lives in one place of present ways and thought, he lives in the whole space of life, past, present and dimly future
Starkey’s faculties for organisation, his methods of excavation and his powers of observation became more and more developed as he grew in years and experience and in 1932 Starkey left Petrie to lead his own expedition to Lachish.
This was, briefly, in conjunction with Harris Dunscombe Colt, Jr. and financed by him and Sir Henry Wellcome, Sir Charles Marston and Sir Robert Mond - initially known as the Wellcome-Colt Expedition. Colt left after one year and Sir Henry took on full responsibility and it was renamed The Wellcome Archaeological Research Expedition to the Near East (W.A.R.E.N.E.). When Sir Henry died in July 1936 Sir Charles Marston co-financed with the Wellcome Trust and it was renamed The Wellcome-Marston Research Expedition to the Near East, with contributions from Sir Robert Mond. Although I am loathe to mention this at the outset of this group of articles about Starkey’s work at Lachish, after his death in January 1938 the Wellcome Trust took on the full funding of the project until its completion.
When Starkey broached the subject two sites were considered – Gath (Tell; Areini) and Lachish (Tell ed Duweir) (cities which co-existed as the same time). Olga Tufnell was then tasked to investigate. Starkey’s intention had been to seek the sources of foreign influence which had imposed themselves on Palestinian culture. Luckily for Starkey Sir Henry favoured Lachish, the larger site.
The site at Tell el Duweir had already been speculated upon by Prof. William Albright (The American School of Archaeology in Jerusalem) and Prof. John Garstang (Director British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem), and Starkey believed the site might disclose the Biblical Lachish for which archaeologists had long been searching. Petrie had already excavated Tel-es-Hesy and had claimed and published it as Lachish although it had not been proved and some experts were sceptical, including Starkey.
To me it seems Fate had already mapped out Starkey’s destiny. As a young boy he was inspired by Layard’s Book Nineveh and its Remains to set out on his archaeological career. He was drawn in particular to the famous magnificent series of carved stone reliefs in Sennarcharib’s Throne Room at his Palace at Nineveh, Assyria, depicting the violent sacking of an unidentified city under siege (now housed in The British Museum). How eerie that it should turn out to be the lost Bible city of Lachish - the city and its excavation for which he later became famous!!
Scenes show the horseman and charioteers, the attacking infantry with their leather and wicker shields, the earthen ramp they built up to the gates, the battering-rams covered in leather to protect its occupants, the storming of the city, the transfer of booty, executed captives hanging from the walls, impaled on stakes, being beheaded, being flaid on the ground, legs being dislocated, others pleading for mercy, captives and families going into exile carrying their belongings in carts harnessed to oxen along with their camels and livestock, Sennacherib sitting on his magnificently decorated ivory throne watching from a safe distance as the city goes up in flames, the royal tent and chariot, the finally the Assyrian military camp.
It is the most graphic war documentary ever found in the ancient world and Lachish’s excavated defences match in every detail the fortifications depicted by Sennarcharib’s war artist Sennarcharib was so pleased with his conquest the inscription below the reliefs read ’Sennarcharib, King of the World, King of Assyria, sat upon an ivory throne and passed in review the booty from Lachish’. The ‘Taylor Prism’ (a stone engraved column) also from the Palace gives Sennarcharib’s account of the conquest of Judah.
I was also particularly taken by the thousands of little oval shapes that entirely fill the space between the carved relief work. Apparently they represent the helmets of the thousands of soldiers.
From the start everyone involved knew the excavation would be a big undertaking - the site covered an area of at least 32 acres and it turned out to be one of the most significant archaeological projects in Palestine in the period between the First and Second World Wars. Starkey himself believed it would take at least 50 years to excavate the site and had laid out plans for many years to come.
Tell ed-Duweir, dating back to c.3200 BC, identified as Biblical Royal Lachish, was 25 miles south of Jerusalem, half way between Gaza and Jerusalem and had been a Canaanite city conquered by the Israelites under Joshua. It was destroyed by the Assyrian ruler Sennacherib in 701 BC and again later by the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar in his conquest of 589 BC. Its earliest date places it 2000 years before Abraham entered Canaan and was first mentioned in diplomatic correspondence in the 14th century BC between Egyptian pharoahs and their vassels.
In fact at its height it was a more important city than Jerusalem, and double its size. It is estimated that there are at least ten or more different layers of occupation, with many cities built one on top of the other, including peoples from lower Egypt. The Hyksos from Egypt occupied the site in 18th century BC and there is also evidence that the city was destroyed by fire several times. During old testament times Lachish served an important protective function in defending Jerusalem and the interior of Judea and was one of the city forts guarding the canyons that led up to Jerusalem from the sea. It is the highest hill in that area and in order to take Jerusalem an invading army would first have to take Lachish which guarded the mountain pass.
One of the most characteristic features of the mound, was its steeply sloping sides, due to the defensive works of the Hyksos and the ‘glacis’, gleaming crushed white limestone sides, must have been an impressive and awesome sight to intending invaders. It is mentioned frequently in the Bible (Old Testament), including Joshua X: 5, 32-39, XII: 11, XV:39, Kings XIV: 19, XVIII: 14, 17, XIX 8, II Chronicles XI: 9, XXV: 27, XXXII: 9, Nehemiah XI: 30, Isaiah XXXVI: 2, XXXVII: 8, Jeremiah XXXIV: 7, Micah I: 13.
Early evidence indicates that the Tell was a chariot city or posting station for the Egyptians as far back as the time of Joshua – the Hyksos probably being the first to introduce horses and chariots. The remains of an old khan or inn with tall standing stones and flagged floors was found which suggest stabling. And even earlier evidence dates back to 4000 BC and suggests the Tell was used as a citadel or acropolis, of a much larger settlement without defences, belonging to a pastoral and peaceable folk, who were later overrun by the successors of Sargon or Accad who brought their Semetic Sumerian civilisation from the Euphrates.
It was the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar who finally put paid to Lachish. Evidence has shown that they destroyed the city walls by lighting fires around its perimeter consisting of olive, oak and fig trees piled at the feet of the walls. The bonfires would have burned day and night till they reduced the limestone blocks to powder and eventual collapse, and many of the mud bricks in the city towers were baked as hard as cement.
As many olive stones were found in the ashes and charred pieces of wood this event is presumed to have taken place around July or August (in fact this burning completely denuded this area of Palestine of its trees – Sennarcharib’s Reliefs had showed Lachish to be lush with grapes, olives and figs). As Judah trembled under the besieging of Lachish many villagers fled to Jerusalem, nearly trebling its population overnight.
Archaeological work in Jerusalem has proved this showing the population and size of Jerusalem at that time expanding from a city of about fifty acres to that of about 150 acres, spilling out beyond the confines of the old city walls. Thousands of captives from Lachish, Jerusalem and surroundings were taken back to Babylon, and these captives are mentioned in the Bible, weeping on the banks of the river in Babylon (‘By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion’, Psalm 137:1-3).
After its destruction, the city which had been home to Israelite, Canaanite and Persian Hyksos, lay desolate until the 6th century BC, restored on the return of the Jews from Captivity, when once again it became a town of some size and importance and they refortified the mound with a double stone wall. The reason for its gradual wane and disappearance is not clear, and even the old name of Lachish was forgotten - which scholars think means ‘place where fire was burned’ / ‘to burn to set on fire’.
With Starkey’s excavations however Lachish again burst into the light of fame with the impressive Fortifications and Gate visible from the top of the Tell. Starkey's achievements at Lachish, working the site year after year, added to the rich store of knowledge which the hill gave up under his skilled and patient direction.
To be continued in Part 2 (ii)
[Further References will be given at the end of the next Article]
Wellcome-Marston Archaeological Research Expedition to the Near East:
Lachish I, The Lachish Letters, OUP, 1938, Harry Torczyner, Lankaster Harding, Alkin Lewis, J. Starkey
Lachish II, The Fosse Temple, OUP, 1940, Olga Tufnell, Charles Inge, Lankaster Harding
Lachish III, The Iron Age (Text and Plates), OUP, 1953, Olga Tufnell et al
Lachish IV, The Bronze Age (Text and Plates), OUP, 1958, Olga Tufnell et al
Harding, G. Lankaster, 1943. Guide to Lachish Tell Ed Duweir. Government of Palestine, Department of Antiquities.
MacGregor, Neil, 2010. A History of the World in 100 objects – The Lachish Reliefs. BBC Radio 4.
Palestine Exploration Quarterly, June 1950. Excavations at Tell ed Duweir, Palestine, directed by the late J.L. Starkey 1932-1938, an address delivered by Olga Tufnell, pp 65-80.
Starkey, J.L. 1935. Finds from Biblical Lachish: A city of changing fortunes on the western frontier of Judah. Illustrated London News, 6 July [pp 19-21].
Ussishkin, David, 1979. On Tel Lachish, the biblical connections, and its first excavator, J.L. Starkey, Archaeological Newsletter of the Royal Ontario Museum, New Series, No.165.
Ussishkin, David. 2004. The Renewed Archaeological Excavations of Lachish (1973-1985), Vols 1-V, , Tel Aviv University/Institute of Archaeology.
Ussishkin, David. Biblical Lachish. Israel Exploration Society/Biblical Archaeology Society
Plus numerous newspaper articles of the day.
The Shephelah is the name given to these lowlands which were the battleground for the 12 tribes of Israel and Judah
It was this same King Nebuchadnezzar who built one of the seven wonders of the world, the hanging gardens of Babylon, so that his mountain bred wife would feel at home in the city.
Part 1: Background and Early Career
By Wendy Slaninka (Granddaughter of James Leslie Starkey & Marjorie Starkey by their daughter Mary)
This is my fourth article for the Filming Antiquity Blog regarding Harding’s archaeology footage and links in with my first, second and third articles, ’Olive Starkey – Lady of Lachish’ (Leslie’s sister), ‘Living at Lachish – Life in Camp’, and ‘First Lady of Lachish – Marjorie Starkey and her family’, where there is other information and photos of Leslie. All the Photos in this article are from the family collection unless otherwise stated.
It has struck me in writing my three previous articles that I really ought to put something on the blog about the main man himself - James Leslie Starkey! There is already some family background on him and photographs in Olive Starkey’s article, and other general bits and pieces in the others but I thought it would be nice to write a short piece about his career leading up to Lachish, and about him. His life and career is well documented and known but just the same I may have something of interest or new to say!
I am sorry I never knew my Grandfather but I think his son John, my Uncle, takes after him in many ways and I take a sense of his persona from him. Olive, Starkey’s sister, introduced John to her friend Margaret Howard and she also must have sensed this too as she later wrote to Olive ‘having met his son I can now well realise the charm that Leslie must have had and his great grasp of so many subjects’. His children’s few memories of him are of a loving family man, willing to get down on the floor and play with them, carrying them round on his shoulders, and John particularly remembers him taking them to London Zoo and the cinema.
In addition to the family background given in the article on his sister Olive, Leslie’s grandfather, James Starkey the builder, was married to Elisabeth Hoare, descended from a line of Hoares boasting three Sir Richards and a Sir Henry (including, we believe, Sir Richard Colt Hoare - distinguished archaeologist in Wiltshire who excavated Stonehenge and who has a monument in Salisbury Cathedral). Elisabeth’s father was born at Hever Castle - country home of Henry VIII.
As a rather delicate child Leslie missed out on a lot of formal education (similar to Sir Flinders Petrie whom he later worked for), but his interest and passion for antiquity was fostered by books, particularly by Layard’s Nineveh, a Victorian sensation, which he had asked for as a birthday present. When he was 15 he worked for an Antique Dealer in London where he handled fine things and speculated about their origins. The premises were very close to the British Museum and he spent his spare time reading and visiting London galleries, including the British Museum and its Reading Room.
During World War I he served in the Royal Navy Air Service for three years as a Fitter/Air Mechanic, moving between several postings on home shores (thankfully), and earning a campaign medal – the British War medal.
A postcard home to his sister Olive from Portsmouth mentions his passing through Southampton with 60 transporters and ships in the harbour filled with troops and horses, the common itself a mass of tents with soldiers waiting to embark. In another from Southsea he wrote that the searchlights at night were wonderful to behold. At one time he was posted to a lighthouse for some months on coastal reconnaissance, and in those lonely hours he laid the foundations of his archaeological knowledge by reading text books which he had sent out to him.
After the war – between 1919 and 1922 - he attended evening classes in Egyptology at University College, London where he came in contact with Flinders Petrie and Margaret Murray, studying hieroglyphs with the latter. Throughout this time he also attended UCL lectures when he could for the degree course in Egyptian History. Dr Samuel Yievin, whom Starkey later worked with, was on the same course and mentions his attendance in his obituary on him.
In 1922 he abandoned a promising business career and became a ‘Petrie Pup’ committing himself to an archaeological career working with Flinders Petrie, who apparently had immediately detected great promise in him. ‘Petrie Pup’ was a term applied to those people selected by Flinders Petrie (later Sir) to act as his assistants in the field, a miscellaneous lot, culled from different professions, having aptitudes and skills in no way connected with Egyptology. Indeed academic knowledge was a definite bar to employment with this pioneer, himself a sickly young man, too fragile to attend school and self-educated by wandering around the British Museum, who preferred people who came to him without preconceived ideas or training. The exception to the rule was made in favour of those who had joined Dr Margaret Murray’s evening classes in elementary hieroglyphs and her sharp eye soon divided the sheep from the goats. Gerald Lankester Harding had also attended her classes.
His first assignment was at Qau with Guy Brunton (Petrie’s Chief Assistant), for the British School of Archaeology in Egypt (BSAE). Qau (Qau el Kebir) is situated on the east bank of the Nile, in Middle Egypt – north of Karnak and Luxor. Obviously excited by his first trip to Egypt he sent Madge (his fiancée) a flurry of daily postcards describing their journey to the site, the site itself, their cave bedrooms, what they did each day, what they ate etc. – they make fascinating reading. The food seemed to be variations on the following theme: bread, boiled rice, hard-boiled eggs, oranges, grapes, nuts, milk, chutney, jam tart and invariably tinned pilchards or tongue! (tinned fish seemed to be Petrie’s stock in trade fare) – and ‘not forgetting coffee’.
Another postcard wrote excitedly about Lord Carnavon’s discovery in the Valley of Kings at that time – “….Brunton has just been up to Luxor to see the royal tomb – he reports the find is simply amazing – chariots, thrones, chairs, beds – all overlaid with gold, chests containing wonderful royal robes – which have not yet been touched until special experts arrive from London…”.
The team’s accommodation was a little out of ordinary as in the first season: they actually lived in the palatial tombs about 700 feet up the cliffs with a fine view overlooking the Nile, desert and bay below. Each had a subsidiary tomb as their own bedroom (which they shared with many other native inhabitants such as snakes, lizards, beetles and bats!) below the Great Hall which led to the burial place of one of the Governors of that region – Uakha.
It was at Qau that Starkey recognised the peculiarities of Baderian pottery (seen but not noted by other excavators – red pottery with black glazed tops and patterning) and helped to establish recognition of the very early Baderian civilisation on the east bank of the Nile in Middle Egypt (that it was his discovery is corroborated by both Harding and Margaret Murray who states ‘he never rested until he had persuaded Petrie to let Gertrude Caton Thompson to dig the mound where the pottery was found’ and Gertrude herself states in her Memoirs that it was Leslie’s ‘sharp eyes’ that had first noticed them).
Later back home Starkey proudly named their new home ‘Badari’. And it was also here, in March 1923, that he also brought to light one of the very earliest copies of the Gospel according to St. John by insisting on emptying the sand from about 2,000 pots which were blank apart from this priceless 4th century Coptic papyrus manuscript, dated at approximately 400 AD, and a hoard of gold coins in another! They had lain undiscovered for 13 centuries. The manuscripts are described in detail in The Expositor, April 1924, and are now stored in the University of Cambridge Library.
He also helped with the distribution of Petrie’s excavations from Abydos – The Tombs of the Courtiers, back in the UK and in particular he visited Bexhill Museum and liaised with the Curator to fill gaps in their collection. He himself even donated 1 guinea to this end!
After two years with Petrie, his amazing quickness, his visual memory, his attention to detail, and a flair for objects (amounting to genius according to Margaret Murray) led him, in 1924, to being appointed Field Director of the Michigan University Expedition to Karanis ‘The Lord’s town’ – fifty miles south of Cairo, the modern Kom Washim in the Fayum, which threw more light on an obscure period. Karanis was one of the largest Greco-Roman cities in the Fayoum dating back to the third century BC – a prosperous Egyptian town in Roman times. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Michigan hold the finds from this site.
Starkey married Madge in 1925, and she joined him for the second season.
His notebooks of progress in the field, and records of finds and observations illuminating the daily lives of these ancient people, the mound surveyed and subdivided into areas and sub areas, and the drawings and plans within this framework, were to prove invaluable to those who continued the excavations after him as the structures throughout the site could be traced in detail.*
He also regularly sent back textiles to the Bolton Museum of Textiles, and textile fragments which apparently are catalogued under ‘S’ for Starkey! Guy Brunton had also sent Bolton Museum textiles from Qau and Badari too. Although he was by then Director of Karanis, Starkey also returned to Qau in Spring 1925 to help the Bruntons close the season as Guy Brunton was ill and had been taken to hospital.
Between May and June 1926 Starkey re-registered with UCL and attended Petrie’s lectures in Egyptology, for the princely sum of £1 1/-. However, when the BSAE transferred their work to Palestine in 1926, Starkey rejoined Petrie as his first assistant at Wadi Ghazzeh and Tell Jemmeh, near Gaza – an ancient fortress along the course of the Wadi Ghazzeh. Together with Harding, he was the backbone of the Petrie expeditions at Tell Jemmeh (1926-27), Tell el Fara (1928-29) and Tell el Ajjul (1930 onwards) – all in roughly the same area - excavating three of the great fortified mounds of the ancient Syro-Egyptian frontier, and leading the first and final season at Tell el Fara (also known as Beth Pelet) in Petrie’s absence. By now his son John had arrived (born 1929) and he accompanied his parents on the expeditions. His daughter Mary was born in October 1931 so Lachish was her first outing.
At Wadi Ghazzeh, Starkey revived the wartime cannalisation of the Wadi which effectively removed the risk of malaria which was rife when they got there. He was considered a magician by the amazed riverside dwellers who now had a quietly flowing stream leaving their fields rich in minerals allowing them to farm once again. He himself fell victim to Malaria in November 1930 when he was at Tell el Ajjul and had to be carted off to the hospital in Gaza for 10 days, and was hospitalised again for it in 1931. He also had Jaundice in December 1927 whilst at Tell Jemmeh.
In 1927 he was elected to the Royal Anthropological Institute. This interesting poster is of a lecture he gave in 1928 to a Masonic Lodge – the title is certainly attractive and I especially like the last line ‘Ladies are specially invited’, presumably meaning the content and nature of the lecture would be suitable for ladies to attend! After the lecture the Lodge wrote enthusiastically thanking him for ‘such an intellectual treat’. Starkey’s father in law was a Masonic Lodge Master and Starkey himself became a Mason in 1929.
In 1932 the BSAE jointly published Beth Pelet II: Prehistoric Fara written by Eann Macdonald and in the same edition, a rather substantial Beth Pelet Cemetery co-authored by Starkey and Gerald Lankester Harding - describing in great detail the excavations, the tombs and layout of the cemeteries, and the finds, including bedrooms and a wine store. Starkey had also contributed to its forerunner Beth Pelet I – Tel Fara in 1930, and in the same year to its supplementary publication written by J. Garrow Duncan, entitled Corpus of dated Palestinian pottery. This included the section ‘Beads of Beth Pelet’ which was dated and arranged by Starkey.
Whilst at Tell el-Fara Starkey discovered the Bronze Bear, from the reign of David or Solomon – originally loaned to the Victoria and Albert Museum from the Institute of Archaeology. Now back in their possession it is affectionately known as the ‘Starkey Bear’. I have a V&A postcard of the Bronze Bear which Olga Tufnell sent Mary saying ‘Your father found this’!
At Tell el Ajjul, a site of 33 acres four miles south of Gaza, at an inconspicuous mound shrouded in sand next to the estuary ‘Hill of the Calves’, Starkey’s intuition led to excavation of a site that revealed treasures rich enough to compare with the hoards of Troy, Ras Shamra and Enkomi. Many of these findings formed the nucleus of the Palestinian collection of the Institute of Archaeology, London and in the seasons that followed, the reliability of his judgement has been amply shown.
In 1932 Starkey parted company with Petrie and struck out on his own, as Director of the Wellcome-Marston research expedition to the Near East, to excavate Lachish. Sadly for Petrie, Olga Tufnell and Lankester Harding went wih him. Even Petrie’s Cook, Mohammed Kreti, who had been with the Petries since a boy, followed suit.
In 1933 Prof. Flinders Petrie retired from the University College London and spent his remaining years excavating near Gaza. He died in Jerusalem in 1942 at the age of 89.
TO BE CONTINUED, with a further article on Lachish.
BSAE, 1923, The Gospel of St. John, Sir Herbert Thompson
BSAE, 1923, Qua and Badari I, Guy Brunton
BSAE, 1924, The Badarian Civilisation, Guy Brunton and Gertrude Caton Thompson
The Expositor, April 1924 No.4, R Kilgour, Hodder & Stoughton
Cambridge University Library, the Coptic Scripts
University of Michigan, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
Bolton Museum of Textiles – textiles sent by Starkey from Karanis
Petrie Museum, University of London Institute of Archaeology
Qualley Log: Diary of Karanis 1924-1925: https://www.luther.edu/archives/assets/Qualley_Log_1924_25.pdf
BSAE, Beth Pelet I, 1930, Flinders Petrie, including contribution by James Starkey
BSAE, 1930, Corpus of dated Palestinian Pottery, J. Garrow Duncan, including Beads of Beth Pelet by James Starkey
BSAE, 1932, Beth Pelet II: Prehistoric Fara, E McDonald, including Beth Pelet Cemetery by Lankaster.Harding and James.Starkey
An Appreciation, PEQ, 1938, Olga Tufnell
Petrie in the Wadi Ghazzeh and at Gaza: Harris Colt’s Candid Camera, PEQ, 1979, Francis W. James
Reminiscences of a Petrie Pup, PEQ, 1982, Olga Tufnell
*The old black and white photos of the excavations at this time were used in the making of the Indiana Jones film The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
By Wendy Slaninka (Granddaughter of James Leslie Starkey & Marjorie Starkey by their daughter Mary)
This is my third article for the Filming Antiquity blog regarding Harding’s archaeology footage and links in with my first and second articles ‘Living at Lachish – Life in Camp’ and ’Olive Starkey – Lady of Lachish’, where there is other information and photos. There are a couple of references to James Leslie Starkey's wife Marjorie (known as Madge) in the Living at Lachish article too. All the Photos in this article are from the family collection unless otherwise stated.
There is brief footage of Madge and the children on Harding films, and the official Lachish promotional film used in the 1930s, but as yet the extracts posted on the site only include shots of Leslie.
James Leslie Starkey was my Grandfather, my Mother Mary’s Father, but he died before I was born so I never knew him. In fact he died while his children, John, Mary and Jane, were still very young so to a great extent neither did they. However their Mother, Marjorie ‘Madge’ Starkey (my Grandmother) put together a scrapbook for each of them so that they should know something of him and about him and of his work when they were old enough to understand. So it is only owing to her careful preservation of the records, photographs, publications and many, many newspaper articles etc. that I am able to reproduce some of it in my articles. Unfortunately Grandmother also died before I was born so I never knew her either but I know lots about her from my mother Mary and my uncle John.
Marjorie Rosaline Rice was born in 1899 in Chislehurst, Kent, a pleasant well-knit community, the daughter of Arthur Alfred Rice – a Master Cycle Maker and Garage and Hire Car owner, and his wife Jessie Eliza (nee Chatfield). Later on Arthur was also well known for work on behalf of St. Margaret’s Philanthropic Society and was on the Board of Governors at St. John’s Hospital.
Madge was the youngest of five siblings – four sisters and a brother. She was an intelligent, articulate young lady who wrote beautiful letters, liked to read and listen to the radio. She had a warm, sociable and outgoing personality, and had a good sense of fun. At school she had been very athletic, earning the nickname ‘Samson’! She enjoyed going to the cinema and liked to knit and like a lot of girls at the time had been brought up by her mother to be a good homemaker, but she definitely also had a mind of her own.
After leaving school she worked as a driver for her father in his garage business, which I presume was fairly uncommon for a lady at that time, and during WW1 was on call for local Doctors on emergency callouts, and during the blitz actually saw two zeppelins shot down in flames. After she married Leslie she also chauffered for a local Doctor when back in England ‘out of season’. Later, during WWII she voluntarily worked for ‘British Restaurants’ (workers’ canteens).
She met James Leslie Starkey (known as Leslie) when she was about 18. He was in the Royal Naval Air Service at that time and happened to stroll past her father’s garage. He spotted her in the forecourt and winked at her, and they got chatting. Later they met up as a foursome with her sister ‘Ting’ and his cousin Eddie and it wasn’t long before they were engaged (and Ting to Eddie too!)
They had quite a long courtship and engagement, and Madge was beginning to despair they would ever be able to afford to get married on Leslie’s meagre salary as a Petrie Pup. It wasn’t until 1925, soon after Starkey was appointed as Director of the archaeological site at Karanis, Egypt, that at last they were able to marry and moved into their first home in Walton on Thames, which they named ‘Badari’. This was after the Badari civilisation identified by Starkey while he was working with Petrie in Qau, Egypt (1922-1924).
Madge travelled out with him for the season there in 1925 and was hooked. How exotic and exciting it must have been to arrive in the Egypt after living in England all her life – with the colourful and vibrant bazaars and suks, men in turbans and headdresses, women in veils, camels, mosques, all the sights, sounds and smells.
However this post was not to last and Starkey rejoined Petrie in Palestine in 1926 and Madge accompanied him every year after that: Wadi Ghazzeh, Tell Jemmeh, Tell el-Fara, Tell Ajjul, and finally to Lachish, under Starkey’s directorship.
Their journey out every season, which typically ran from October/November to March/April, was quite epic in itself. They went by boat and steamship across the Mediterranean, and train, ferry, car and lorry across England, Europe and the Middle East. An old collection of postcards from that time from Leslie to Madge when they were engaged and from Madge to her parents after they married depict typical local scenes and tourist spots – others showed girls and women in costume and going about their daily life as well scenes of sites of archaeological interest. Postmarks were from ports of call and towns, from Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus, Aden, Egypt, and Palestine.
The messages from Leslie were often in diary form recounting the travels and day to day activities. He also described his passage through other places such as the Straits of Corinth where he commented the ship only just squeezed through and, on another, passing Stromboli, with lava and smoke belching out of the volcano, pretty white walled houses in villages along the shores, looking out for the lighthouse at Alexandria, and at Cyprus they couldn’t land because of troubles – the Governor’s house had just been burned down - though they did take on 240 head of cattle which were stowed in the hold bound for Jaffa.
Those from Madge include ‘My dearest Mother’ or ‘Dear Ma and Pa’ from the Shepherd’s Hotel, Cairo (a fashionable hotel founded in 1845) where they honeymooned! – her first trip abroad on the way to Karanis – ‘Here we are - We arrived last night – have been round the town – its so hot – am enjoying every moment’. Another was from Naples - ‘the weather is glorious – went to Pompeii yesterday – twas all wonderful and Naples! – well you should come and see it. Vesuvius smokes steadily away – at night one can see the red fire’. They were staying in Bertolini’s Palace Hotel which commanded a grand view of Vesuvius, Naples and the Bay – it is still there today.
One after a day touring Paris ‘just had supper – not frogs! – charabang round the shops – Oh! The exquisite handbags here! Another from Rome ‘had a good day sightseeing – Oh what a lot I’ve seen – all beautiful’. Another from Switzerland written on board the train ‘just passing through Switzerland – finished breakfast – excellent coffee’¸and from Tel Aviv ‘we are in a hotel right on the seafront – bathe and make sandpies all day – rather hot but very lovely – all very brown already’. Many ended with her customery sign-off ‘Luck and Love’
The cards describe the sights en route as well gales and choppy seas with bad crossings, the food they ate, travelling companions, the lack of sleep owing to crowded carriages in trains and the views from the window, people they met and places and hotels in which they stayed. Son John particularly remembers the journey out on the steamship ‘RMS Strathmore’ in 1935 They had gone tourist class, Madge, Jane and Mary in one cabin, he and his father and two other men in another. There were several Australian families on board and when they disembarked at Port Said he remembers with embarrassment the boys ribbing him about his sailor suit that Madge had dressed him in which was all the rage at the time.
Madge had three children with Leslie - John in 1928, Mary in 1931 and Jane in 1935 and the expanding family travelled out with Leslie every season they could. She bore up well in the desert heat as an expectant mother with John in 1928 at Tell Fara and travelled out again with him at 5 months old the next season later that year.
She would have missed the October 1931 season as that was when Mary was born so she and the children would not have gone out til the October 1932 season, with Mary aged 1 year.
Leslie missed his family that season and sent Mary a pretty little string of beads for her bonnet made by one of young girls working on the dig together with some money for sweets ’which she was to share with her brother’ with a charming note‘from your loving Daddy’telling her he would be home ‘when the bluebells are just about to blossom’. Many of his cards and letters to Madge contained cartoons drawn by him and little quips and fun-filled comments and terms of endearment. His Christmas card to Madge, contained real pressed flowers from the Holy Land, and also had a little verse at the back and a cute sketch aimed at Madge: ‘When gloating over the Xmas fare – Don’t Forget!! The more you eat the fatter you’ll get !!!
And Jane too was only 5 months old when they sailed out after she was born in 1935. Travelling with young children and babies on the journeys they undertook to get to the digs could not have been easy, although once at the dig sites Madge had a willing supply of nannies to help with the children.
Madge was a very organised and capable person and her son John remembers her taking charge of all the necessary packing and planning, and the shutting up of the house in England for the season. The only times she didn’t accompany Leslie was if she had just had - or was about to have - a new baby.
In 1937 they moved to their second home in St.Margaret’s, Twickenham, to be nearer to Madge’s family home - a lovely settlement of homes, the back gardens of which encircled their own private lake with woods and gardens (Madge’s father lived the other side of the lake and the children would cross the little bridge on the lake to visit him). Leslie also arranged for a daily maid to help Madge with the upkeep of the much bigger house and the three children.
Whilst Madge’s role was as a Wife and Mother, and did not have any particular interest in the archaeology side of things, she did support Leslie in his work as the Director’s wife and would help out where she could; and also had the rather gruesome task of packing away skulls at Lachish for despatch to England, after they had been cleaned and waxed! Madge loved the Bedouins too, immersing herself in their culture and language, which she learnt, and their dress and music, even learning how to drum. One season Madge taught everyone how to knit, men and women alike, both the members of the team and the Bedouins, who begged to be taught – it was quite a craze and everyone was at it, knitting stockings and jumpers. Olga commented that it was so funny watching the houseboys with their big hands trying to weald the needles [see also ‘Camp Capers’ photo in ‘Life in Camp’ article with Madge in Fancy Dress]. All the time Madge was in Palestine she collected folk costumes, embroideries, jewellery, fabrics, textiles, etc. After her death Olga Tufnell arranged for Madge’s collection to be donated to the Palestine Heritage Museum in Jerusalem, where it is on display today.
She also helped Leslie in the preparations that had to be planned for camp visitors, and the stream of people who undertook field work and helped out in many ways over the years. As I mentioned earlier, her mother had made sure all her daughters were well groomed in homemaking skills and Madge was an excellent cook and hostess, as well as a wonderful, generous and loving wife to Leslie and mother to her children.
Madge did not accompany Leslie on that last tragic season in 1938 because they both decided the childrens’ education was suffering and it was about time they attended school properly. She and the children were never to see their beloved Leslie again.
TO BE CONTINUED, with a further article on the tragedy and its aftermath.
1940s wartime Britain restaurants selling basic meals at reasonable prices, off-ration, usually staffed by the Womens Voluntary Service.
By Wendy Slaninka (Granddaughter of James Leslie Starkey & Marjorie Starkey by their daughter Mary)
This is my second short article based on the family’s quite extensive scrapbook collection of photos and information about my grandfather James Leslie Starkey and his work as an archaeologist, with his colleagues Olga Tuffnell and Gerald Lankester Harding. My first post was on Leslie’s sister Olive and her contributions to Lachish based back home in England. This post discusses the team’s lives in camp, what their accommodation was like, how they lived and entertained themselves when not busy with actual archaeology. I have also included brief personal references to my family where applicable - Leslie, his wife Marjorie, known as Madge, and their children – John, Mary (my mother) and Jane. I hope you will find it of interest.
As the Institute of Archaeology are putting up blogposts on Gerald Lankester Harding’s private films, which they have recently acquired, I thought my articles would complement them and hopefully will link together to form the bigger picture. Amara Thornton has already touched upon the social lives in her post "Introducing Gerald Lankester Harding". I am sure there are more in the pipeline revealing yet more aspects of their lives!
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The accommodation on offer at the various digs hitherto had been for the most part rather basic – Flinders Petrie’s camps certainly weren’t known for being lavish. But what a difference when it came to Lachish – a Rolls Royce of camps in comparison, with the generous funding initially from Harris Dunscombe Colt and Sir Henry Wellcome, and later from Sir Charles Marston and Sir Robert Mond (and then finally by the Wellcome Trust completely). To begin with the accommodation was more modest, starting off in tents, but each year the Dig Site expanded and improved.
Here they lived in comparative comfort in the surprisingly large dig house, with open fires for chilly evenings (though they still needed hot water bottles in December). There were separate bedrooms for each member of the team, guest bedrooms, living areas, dining room complete with a white tablecloth, kitchen, laundry room (where Bedouin girls were taught to iron), workshops, drawing office, dispensary, garages, outbuildings and store rooms for the necessary work and storage of artefacts – and even a library!
The walls of the buildings were built of mud and stones and faced with a white lime plaster and the roofs corrugated iron. (These sometimes blew off in the wind – Olga lost hers on one occasion.) There was also a separate Wash House and toilet a little distance away. In its earlier, more rustic days, the toilet and wash area had a Union flag which was raised to warn of occupancy! They hadn’t however got quite so far as to have running water installed; this was brought in by camels to fill the tanks. The larger house on the extreme left was built to the specifications of Colt (one of the initial backers) but he pulled out after the first season – his interests drawn elsewhere.
They had a wireless in the dining room, which they referred to as ‘The Wellcome Arms’ (in fact Madge’s Palestinian china teapot still survives unscathed together with some other bits and pieces of chinaware from that time). There were musical evenings, a piano, a gramophone and a ping pong table. Starkey and Harding even invented a magic lantern made out of biscuit tins to show their films on the wall. Harding's films include candid camera shots of Leslie, his wife Madge and their children, as well as himself, Olga and others, and footage of the archaeological work going on.
They all relied on supplies sent by boxes from the UK which they eagerly awaited. They were often frustrated, not only by the delays involved, but also by the manhandling, and heavy vetting, by the Customs with many items inexplicably confiscated.
The Camp had an excellent cook, Mohammed Kreti, who had abandoned the Petries to be at Lachish (he had worked for them since he was a boy). Mohammed Kreti usually managed to obtain a good selection of food, including meat and fish and vegetables, as well as a decent variety of fruit which they supplemented with tinned food. Visitors also helped out in the kitchen from time to time, becoming self-appointed Housekeepers keeping a general eye on the domestic side of things, and a Mrs. Stingies apparently made marvellous cakes with a new fangled instrument which turned butter into cream.
The Bedouin workers, who would arrive each season, pitched their tents in the Lachish valley close to the main camp, and men, women and children would work on the dig. The children especially were rewarded if they found something special. They were very much a part of the life of the camp and Leslie was very involved in their life and welfare, often wandering into the camp to chat to the families and help with problems. He set up a field and eye hospital on site at Lachish with Olga’s aid for the workers and their families, which in time incorporated as well the villagers for miles around who were distrustful of hospitals but obviously felt safe at his clinic.
Madge loved the Bedouins too, immersing herself in their culture and language, which she learnt, and their dress and music, even learning how to drum. Mary had a Palestinian Bedouin girl’s outfit and she remembered parading it at lectures her father gave back in England during the summer months (we believe the outfit is now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem). The workers didn’t work on Sundays and these were referred to as ‘Market Day’ or Suk Day and gave the team time to relax and follow their own leisure pursuits.
When the team were working for Petrie and at Lachish, they would go on expeditions and trips to local sites of interest and to village entertainments. When they could they would go bathing, especially when they were based at Gaza. From Lachish they also sometimes bathed at Askelon (the river emptying into the nearby estuary at Ashdod is now called the River Lachish), as well as in the flooded wadi at Lachish itself in the rainy season.
When they were in Jerusalem they often stayed and dined at the Hotel Fast, who became good friends with the personnel on site at Lachish, particularly Leslie. Most years the team would take an expedition into Eygpt too as well as other sites of interest such as Petra, and Byblos in Syria with its crusader castles. (On this subject – an amusing anecdote – Olga told Madge that on a ‘holiday travel break’ to Egypt, at sunset, at least 50 miles from anywhere, and not yet reached their destination, Leslie suddenly decided to alight from the car saying ‘This is a good light to look for flints’! And this is something he did on more than one occasion on their expeditions, much to the frustration of the other passengers.)
They created their own entertainments in the evenings and days off, celebrating their birthdays with cake and a party. They would sing carols at Christmas and toast the season with a festive tree (donated by Hotel Fast) and turkey – which they also had on other special occasions. They also held an annual fancy dress evening which was great fun. Here Leslie is dressed as the Bishop of Portsmouth* (his friend who visited Lachish) admonishing Madge as a Jezebel! On another occasion he dressed up as a Keeper of a Turkish Harem, and the God Serapis on another. Harding apparently would dress up in all sort of outrageous outfits, often in drag!
The workers often held feast days and put on singing and dancing and musical spectacles ‘fantasias’ for the camp with drummers and pipers, and jugglers. Sometimes there would be galloping horses and camels, swordsmen, and sitting on rugs round bonfires guests would be served hot sweet tea, sweetmeats and roasted sheep and rice. The camp would also sometimes be entertained by travelling gypsy musical troupes. Young Mary loved these events, fascinated by the exotic costumes of the ladies, and John remembers her dancing round the camp fire on many occasions. Olga commented on it too in a letter to Madge one season when Mary was not there (probably when Jane was due) hoping she hadn’t forgotten how to dance as they really missed her performances that season.
One season Madge taught everyone how to knit, men and women alike, both the members of the team and the Bedouins, who begged to be taught – it was quite a craze and everyone was at it, knitting stockings and jumpers. Olga commented that it was so funny watching the houseboys with their big hands trying to wield the needles. And when the Lachish Letters were unearthed Harding actually taught the ancient alphabet to the illiterate Bedouin workmen who soon began to write simple notes in the ancient script!
Leslie hosted many visitors and helpers to the Dig who stayed for varying lengths of time, and to whom he personally gave guided tours and was in his element giving explanations as to work in progress. These included the H.E. Crown Prince and Princess of Sweden – Lady Louise Mountbatten. Olga’s Mother visited for the season beginning in 1933, and Lady Petrie joined her at this time too. Sir Charles Marston also visited the same year with his wife and daughters, and Sir Robert Mond and both their pictures were hurriedly hung in The Wellcome Arms prior to their arrival! (see picture above) Once ‘this century’s most amazing discovery’ (the Lachish Letters) was published, the floodgates opened.
The front courtyard was eventually surrounded by a wall and gate and a variety of vegetation was planted round the site. Olga in particular created quite a flower and vegetable garden round the buildings with local and imported seeds including the local red anemones and narcissi and daisies, and they also planted a row of cypresses as well as acacia, spruce, fir, eucalyptus and almond seedlings. One Almond tree was John’s which he personally looked after and Olga wrote to tell him of its advancement when he was not there. Mary loved the red anemones, scented nightstock, cyclamens and other flowers that covered the Tell after the rainy season, and often mentioned them. She really liked the desert landscape and the little tortoises she would find.
The Starkey children too embraced life in camp. There are many photos of them at Lachish with their entourage of nannies. Leslie and Madge brought many of their toys out to Palestine and as the ‘Boss’s son’ John had an endless supply of Bedouin boys to play with! He also remembers being taken for an exciting ride in the countryside by a visiting Sheikh, on the back of his stallion. One season one of the Bedouin camels had a white calf and Mary obviously viewed it as her own as she had written on the back of this photograph ‘My camel’.
They did have cats in the camp at Lachish and Harding had a dog called ‘Lachish’ in the final season which he left with Olga, which she was pleased about as he would bark furiously at anyone who neared.
Interesting Titbit: Barbara Parker worked for Starkey for one year doing field work and also later worked on the Lachish publications. She was also secretary to Max Mallowan, Agatha Christie's second husband, an archaeologist who worked as assistant to Sir Leonard Woolley. When Agatha died, Max married Barbara!
*The Bishop of Portsmouth conducted Leslie’s Remembrance Service at Westminster.
By Wendy Slaninka (Granddaughter of James Leslie Starkey & Marjorie Starkey by their daughter Mary)
Caitlin O’Grady’s post ‘Sticking, Mending and Restoring: the conservator’s role in archaeology’, has inspired me to write a few more words. I refer particularly to the footage of the lady repairing pots which Caitlin believes may be my Great Aunt Olive Starkey. I am grateful to her for creating Auntie’s first ‘outing’ and for showing her contributions to archaeology.
On looking at the footage I too believe it may be her, although as Caitlin says, all we see is a pair of hands (wearing a pretty bracelet) but they do look like her arms! Olive never went to Lachich (Tell Duweir) - with my detective hat on I believe this sequence may have been filmed in London. One of the photos below shows Olive wearing an overall and working on an object in a box next to a window – very similar to the footage which also shows what look like overall sleeves rolled up.
I would love to believe it is her, and thought the following additional personal and family information about her and her work may also be of interest as an addition to Caitlin’s post and film clip.
Caitlin refers to women "helping out" in the background of archaeology and I am glad to write this tribute to Olive as she was certainly one of the unsung Ladies of Lachish.
Olive Norah Starkey – my great Aunt - was born in Stoke Newington, Hackney, London in January 1896, younger sister of James Leslie Starkey, archaeologist, and Director of Lachish 1931-1938.
Her father was an Architect and Surveyor (James Starkey of St. Luke’s and Highbury), The Starkeys hailed from London and the family tree dates back to Roger Starkey, Mercer of London, who was granted a coat of arms in 1543 under the reign of King Henry VIII.
According to Auntie Olive’s family tree, it is also strongly believed that our ancestor Edward Hoare, born 1760, Hever Castle, is a descendant of the famous Hoare family, including Sir Richard Colt Hoare, distinguished archaeologist in Wiltshire, who excavated Stonehenge.
Olive and Leslie were children by their father’s second marriage in 1894 to the widow Louisa Brown (nee Pike) of Holloway. Their elder halfsisters, Louie and Eva Brown, were their Mother’s children from her first marriage Mr. Starkey had no children with his first wife Isabella who died in 1892.
By the time she left school her father was quite elderly, and her mother unwell and she devoted her time to caring for them both until she was 30. She was a homebody and was a loving and loyal daughter, subsequently spending much of her life at home, and sadly never married.
She was a refined, happy, kind, affectionate and gentle lady, and very individual with a sense of fun. She was very sociable and her nephew John (Leslie’s son) remembers her hosting sumptious tea parties with guests from her wide and interesting circle of friends. (There are many wonderful old photos of people in her collection – some undoubtedly family, but most unfortunately unknown to us.) I too remember, as a young teenager on visits in the late 60s - mid 70s, her entertaining us with intriguing parlour games and reading our tealeaves!
She unfortunately needed corrective glasses for a ‘wonky eye’ (strabismus) – but this never held her back or interfered with her ability to carry out fine work, and indeed she helped her brother-in-law (husband of her halfsister Eva) in his jewellery business carrying out repairs (we have a work-box with all her instruments, and full of beads, semi-precious stones, amethyst beads, seed pearls, etc. etc. and all sorts of accoutrements of the trade, and it is likely she also worked on the beautiful Lachish necklaces. Eventually she moved to a house in Grosvenor Gardens, London which she shared with some other ladies.
She was intensely proud of her brother Leslie and wholeheartedly supported his work by painstakingly repairing, reconstructing and restoring the pots and decorated vessels which formed the collection from Lachish and had been sent back to the UK.
The pot being mended in Caitlin’s clip is definitely from Lachish; the finished article was a polychrome vase of about 1550 BC with figures of an ibex and fish one side and an ibex and bird the other side which was part of the expedition exhibitions of the 1930s and is now in the British Museum.
Much of this work was done at the Institute of Archaeology in Regent’s Park, where later she also taught students how to conserve the artefacts from Lachish and other sites.
Many of the Lachish pots can be seen at the British Museum in their Levant Section, Gallery 57, which also houses the Lachish Ewer, the pot which inspired the Lachish Emblem, and the above pot shown in the clip.
In March 2007, an exhibition called A Future for the Past was organised by the Institute of Archaeology in London on Sir Flinders Petrie and his work in Palestine. This naturally included finds by Starkey and we recognised Olive’s distinctive handwriting on the description cards in the displays.
However Olive was also renowned for her fine work in embroidery and needlework, winning competitions for Fancy Needlework Illustrated and The Needlewoman, and she belonged to various Ladies Societies, including The Ladies Work Society. I have a letter from a lady she made a lace tray cloth for saying "it is the most magnificent cloth I have ever seen" and also a template Olive had prepared for a lace collar very much like the one her stepsister Louie is wearing in the first photo above.
When the Emblem for Lachish was picked she made the Lachish Banner which was flown in the camp in Palestine. John had kept the Banner with him for over fifty years at his home in Canada and at the memorial service held in Jerusalem for his father in 1988 he presented it to Prof. David Ussishkin.
It now resides in the Megiddo Museum at Tel Aviv University. Ussishkin adopted the Lachish emblem too for the covers of his renewed excavation reports on Lachish.
The design for the Lachish emblem was based on a painted potsherd - The Lachish Ewer – chosen by Sir Henry Wellcome himself. Olga Tuffnell told Mary (Leslie’s daughter) that she did many drafts before Sir Henry was satisfied with the result and It became the emblem of the expedition, appearing on all notepaper and allied paperwork, advertising and publications.
It shows rams or ibexes stretching up to a palm tree (the tree of life), together with a suckling animal, and was inspired from a drawing on the Ewer - the original inscription on the ewer is roughly translated as ‘gift to my lady (goddess)’.
Olive also crocheted a lace tray mat as a gift to her brother based on the same design – both the Mat and its detailed template which she made are now with me.
Tragically Leslie was senselessly murdered in Palestine on 10th January 1938 on the Hebron Road travelling to Jerusalem for the grand opening of the Rockefeller Museum which was also going to showcase his work at Lachish. He was buried on Mount Zion the next day. Olive accompanied Leslie's wife Madge and son John to his memorial service on 18th January at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster (nestled next to Westminster Cathedral) – there were over 550 people in attendance!
Olive was deeply affected by his death, but her love for her brother was such that she was determined to bring his work to fruition.
She tirelessly worked with Olga Tufnell after the war to bring the Lachish Books II, III and IV to completion - in between her A.R.P. work!* An article on Olive and Olga's work appeared in The Evening Standard in June 1940 entitled ‘‘Palestine Excavation Goes on – Two women direct it from London".
Olga always thanked Olive in the Lachish acknowledgements. For example, in Book II she wrote:
"Miss Olive Starkey has been at work on the repair and reconstruction of pottery since 1933 and has built up from sherds several hundred pots, including many fine decorated vessels which now make worthy additions to the museum collection. She has continued this task all year round and through her perseverance and skill has surmounted many technical difficulties."
In Book III Olga stated: "... and it is due to her great care and technical ability that the vessels are now fully restored". And in the final volume, Olga highlighted Olive's ‘deep and personal interest in the repair and reconstruction of several hundred pots’. Olive worked unstintingly with Olga until the final production of the last volume (in 1954). She had dedicated at least 21 years to this end.
I don’t know the origins of how she got into the business of sticking pots together (though we believe Leslie may have procured the job at the Institute for her when he became Director of Lachish) but I feel she must have been doing it before this even when Leslie worked for Petrie as her handwriting is on description cards in the Petrie collection too. She obviously had an eye for fine detail, and it also meant she was a godsend to the family when they had chinaware disasters! - her repairs were almost impossible to detect.
Olive’s eyesight had begun to deteriorate and she eventually retired to a Hotel in Folkestone for gentle folks – aptly named St. Olave’s!
I remember visiting her there and she proudly showing me her pristine set of the Lachish Books in the bookcase of the guest lounge.
She passed away December 1977, aged 81.
And ending on a more amusing note:
*Air Raid Precautions – Civil Defence Service which encompassed a variety of roles
By Amara Thornton, with Yasmeen El Khoudary on Gaza
Harding’s films offer us a valuable glimpse into urban spaces in British Mandate Palestine and Transjordan. "Cityscapes" brings together Harding's footage of Amman, Jerash, Jerusalem and Gaza, documenting his encounters with each place in the early 1930s. The information below adds a further layer of detail, drawing on complementary material from the Harding and Horsfield archives at UCL Institute of Archaeology and my own photographs from a research trip to Jordan in 2008. In addition, I'm grateful to Yasmeen El Khoudary for contributing the section on Gaza in this post, and for providing details on the Gaza section in the film, and Felicity Cobbing for providing details on the Jerusalem sequence in the film.
In the Roman era, Amman was known as Philadelphia. Along with Jerash, it was part of a network of ten cities in the Levant - the “Decapolis”. The remains of Roman Philadelphia are still visible today, even though Amman has expanded significantly since Harding filmed it. The Roman theatre is in downtown Amman, and above it in the area known as the Citadel lie remains of the Roman acropolis with the ruins of a Roman temple.
When Harding filmed in Amman, it had been the capital of Transjordan for about a decade. It had a population of over 20,000 by the mid 1930s. Across the street from the Roman theatre was Amman’s Hotel Philadelphia, the only large hotel in the city for tourists. Nearby were the Government offices, among them the Transjordan Department of Antiquities. The residence of Emir Abdullah was also not far away.
Jerash was a village north of Amman incorporating the ruins of the Decapolis city of Gerasa. When Harding arrived on site with his camera, the Transjordan Department of Antiquities had an outpost there, in an old Ottoman-era house right in the middle of the site, just above and to the right of the Propylea of Artemis. At the time, George Horsfield lived in the house; he was Chief Curator/Inspector of the Transjordan Department of Antiquities, responsible for overseeing work carried out in Jerash. Harding himself subsequently lived in Antiquity House, as it was called – he took up Horsfield’s post in 1936. After Harding’s death in 1979, his ashes were interred in Jerash.
In filming Jerusalem, a city significant to millions across the world and a place of religious pilgrimage, Harding focuses on the southeastern part of the Old City, and one of the most well known buildings – the Dome of the Rock – and the other buildings on the Haram esh-Sharif/Temple Mount platform. Jerusalem was also significant for archaeologists as seat of the administrative framework for archaeology in Mandate Palestine. The Palestine Department of Antiquities and the Palestine Archaeological Museum (now Rockefeller Archaeological Museum) were both situated just outside the Old City walls near Herod’s Gate in East Jerusalem.
Harding and his colleagues in excavation often visited Gaza. If approaching Palestine from Egypt, a route taken by many tourists at the time, the railway began at Kantara East Station and stopped at Gaza en route to Jaffa and Tel-Aviv.
Two miles off Palestine's Mediterranean coast, Gaza has historically been one of the region’s most important trade cities.
The street shown in LH31 used to be known as “Share’ al-Bahar,” or the “Sea Road,” until the name was changed formally to “Omar Al-Mokhtar street" in 1936 after a famous Libyan resistance leader. To the south is Al-Omari Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Gaza, built in the 13th century. The mosque has an interesting history; during the ancient Philistine era, the site was used for the pagan Marneion temple. This was destroyed by Empress Eudoxia in the 5th century and replaced by a church that bore her name. During the 7th century, the church was turned into a mosque, which was destroyed by the Crusaders in the 12th century and replaced by a cathedral. Finally, the Mamluks built the mosque shown in the film, which still stands today although it sustained heavy damages during the First World War.
The striking arch shown in the film lies to the south of the Mosque. It marks the entrance to Gaza’s famous gold market, also known as Souk al-Qissariya, which was built by the Mamluks during the 15th century. The covered market used to occupy a much larger area, most of which was destroyed by the British Army during WWI. Harding's camera also offers a different perspective of Share’ al-Bahar/Omar al-Mokhtar Street, looking east towards the city. This perspective shows the historic Khan al-Zeit (the Oil Quarter), which was recently replaced by a new high rise building.
Not far from the opposite end of Omar al-Mokhtar street lies one of the oldest pottery workshops in Gaza, Al-Fawakheer. Pottery and ceramics have been a staple of Gaza for thousands of years with local samples dating back to the Neolithic. During the Hellenistic era, the "Gaza Amphorae" became a renowned symbol of excellent olive oil, wine, or brie that was produced in the city and traded with cities around the Mediterranean coast.
El-Eini, R. 2008. Mandated Landscape: British Imperial Rule in Palestine 1929-1948. London: Routledge.
Feldman, I. 2008. Governing Gaza: Beaurocracy, Authority and the Work of Rule, 1917-1967. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Horsfield, G. 1933. A Guide to Jerash - With plan. Government of Transjordan.
Kraeling, C. (Ed). 1938. Gerasa, city of the Decapolis. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Luke, H. & Keith-Roach, E. 1930. Handbook to Palestine and Transjordan. London: Macmillan & Co.
Lumby, C. 1934. Traveller's Handbook to Palestine, Syria and Iraq. 6th edn. London: Simpkin Marshall, Ltd.
St. Laurent, B. with Taşkömür, H. 2013. The Imperial Museum of Antiquities in Jerusalem, 1890-1930: An Alternate Narrative. Jerusalem Quarterly 55: 6-45.
Thornton, A. 2009. George Horsfield, conservation and the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. Antiquity Project Gallery.
Thornton, A. 2014. The Nobody: Exploring Archaeological Identity with George Horsfield (1882-1956). Archaeology International.
Guest post by Caitlin R. O’Grady (UCL Institute of Archaeology)
Document, document, document. That is the conservator’s mantra.
Often, documentation takes the form of before and after treatment photos, and/or staging images that describe active intervention. However, in the early decades of the profession, documentation was not a carefully followed tenant.
Where early records exist, they often are cursory and limited to brief paper notes. Therefore, it is the unexpected inclusion of active preservation in films digitised through Filming Antiquity which makes them extraordinary. In addition to documenting all aspects of archaeology, these films provide a snapshot of conservation and preservation of archaeological artefacts as practised in the field and laboratory between the 1930s and the 1960s.
Conservation in the field
Gerald Lankester Harding, James Leslie Starkey, Marjorie Rice and Olga Tufnell led excavations at Tell ed-Duweir as part of the Wellcome-Marston Expedition to the Near East between 1932 and 1938. During this period excavation photographer Ralph Richmond Brown produced a film, “Lachish – City of Judah”, to document the site and the process of excavation for a public audience.
Conservation activities including field consolidation (strengthening material by filling in pores), packing artefacts for transport and ceramic reconstruction are also recorded, highlighting the importance of preservation in archaeological enquiry. In this first sequence from “Lachish – City of Judah” a woman carefully applies molten wax to faunal remains (while smoking!) in order to preserve “these fragile bones for transport to England”.
Wax consolidation, a common practise in the field to aid transport of fragile archaeological remains, is well documented in early publications (e.g. Petrie 1904; Rathgen 1905; Droop 1915; Lucas 1924, Delougaz 1933; Plenderleith 1934). While invaluable during this early period, as supplies and chemicals were frequently impossible to procure in the field, wax causes staining and is difficult to remove, particularly when applied at excessively high temperatures.
Ione Gedye, founder of the Repair Department at the Institute of Archaeology (IoA), University of London, taught conservation from 1937 until her retirement in 1975. She discusses the use of wax and some of these very issues in the 1947 notes she prepared for Institute of Archaeology students on the treatment of archaeological artefacts in the field and laboratory.
Gedye (1947: 10) writes, “in the field paraffin wax is often used to strengthen bones … in some cases the wax was put on too hot and penetrated so deeply that it could only be removed with difficulty”; she concludes “it is best to avoid the use of wax for bones, though an exception may be made in the case of paraffin wax bandages”. As conservators, we often find remnants of these treatments, but much more rarely can rely on photographic or written documentation describing the materials used for stabilisation.
The film also documents reconstruction of ceramics recovered at Tell-ed Duweir. In the second sequence, a woman applies thick, dark adhesive to sherds allowing them to dry by propping them up and using gravity to aid tight joins – a technique I and many other conservators continue to use during fieldwork. After the vessel is completely reconstructed and adhesive dried, we see her making plaster fills to fill losses.
Despite not being able to see her face, it is likely that this is Olive Starkey, sister of James and sister-in-law of Marjorie. Olive was responsible for much of the restoration of finds on site and in London and she is directly thanked by Olga and colleagues for her work in the “repair and reconstruction of pottery since 1933” (Tufnell et al. 1940: 12). This practice was not uncommon; many wives and other female relations of archaeologists worked at “mending”, “sticking” and “restoring” artefacts in the field during this early period. The IoA hired Olive Starkey to work in the Repair Department in December 1945. In this capacity, she and Gedye taught students how to conserve recently excavated artefacts from Tell-ed Duweir as well as other sites.
Conservation and teaching
An animation in “Electrolytic Treatment of Iron Objects”, an IoA film probably created in 1954/1955*, describes the chemical process by which chlorides (responsible for active corrosion) are removed from corroded metals during electrolysis. This technique is used in conservation to reduce corrosion through the application of an electric current through an ionic solution – in this case sodium hydroxide (NaOH). The resulting reaction reduces the corroded metal from an oxide and converts it back to a metal.
The animation is followed by a clip of Ione Gedye herself demonstrating this technique on iron artefacts in the laboratory. Critically, students are advised to control the treatment process by monitoring the presence of chlorides in soak water.
Work is conducted in an open laboratory and without personal protective equipment such as gloves. As with the Lachish films, health and safety in the handling of chemicals is not a priority. While some steps utilise harsher chemicals and tools than we may use now, the approach as demonstrated is not very different from electrolytic methods used to treat metals today.
Conservation in action
Professional photographer Maurice Cookson, former director of the IoA Photographic Department and author of the ground-breaking Photography for Archaeologists (1954), and Sheppard Frere, Professor of Archaeology of the Roman Empire at University of London created the film “Lifting a Mosaic Pavement” in 1957 to document the removal of an in situ mosaic and its subsequent treatment. The mosaic was recovered in Building 3 of Insula XXVII at Verulamium, a Roman site in St. Albans, Hertfordshire.
All stages of the lifting and backing process are included, with intertitles discussing aspects of the treatment. In this clip from the film, we see the application of Corvic Q44/62 (a polyvinyl chloride adhesive) and cotton facing material, which are applied to safeguard mosaic tesserae during the lifting process. Following application of these materials, we see the process of undercutting and mosaic removal from its original find spot.
The film is interesting in that it documents the reflexive practice of conservation where process is assessed in real time and modified to better influence results. This is clear in the titles state that the use of solvent in removing the PVC adhesive was not as successful as removal without solvent.
We are fortunate that the mosaic lifting and backing procedure is further described in publication (Frere 1958) with specific information regarding the intervention materials using the lifting and backing processes including cement mortar recipes.
As Frere states (158: 116), discovery of the mosaic offered those involved the opportunity to develop a new method in collaboration with chemists working in industry. Treatments of this type are very destructive, and not as commonly utilised, but remain attractive to archaeologists interested in recovering coins and pottery in order to date the mosaic, as well as stratigraphic layers from earlier occupations.
However, the technique continues to have a place in salvage and rescue archaeology. For example, conservators and archaeologists used a similar approach (though with more stable conservation materials) to recover numerous Roman mosaics from Zeugma, located near Gaziantepe, Turkey, following the construction of the Birecik Dam on the Eurphrates River (Nardi & Schneider 2013).
These films offer an extraordinary glimpse into archaeological conservation as practised in the field and laboratory from the 1930s through to the 1960s. They connect the published literature and its translation into actual practice and are amazing documents of the field’s early history.
I hope you have found these films as incredible as I have. I would love to hear from anyone who participated in filming during this period at the IoA, or saw these films while studying or working at the Institute. Please get in touch to share your perspective and memories!
*The film is referenced in an IoA annual report from 1956 (IoA 1956: 7).
Delougaz, P. 1915. The Treatment of Clay Tablets in the Field. The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization, no. 7, ed. James Henry Breasted, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 39-57.
Droop, J.P. 1915. Archaeological Excavation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Frere, S. 1958. Lifting Mosaics. Antiquity 32 (126): 116-119.
Gedye, I. 1947. Notes on the Treatment of Archaeological Objects in the Field & the Laboratory. For the Use of Students of the Institute – Not For Publication. Unpublished course notes. University of London, Institute of Archaeology.
Gedye, I. 1953. Report of the Technical Department. In Ninth Annual Report. London University of London Institute of Archaeology, pp. 6.
Lucas, A. 1924. Antiques - Their Restoration and Preservation. London: E. Arnold & Co.
Nardi, R. and Schneider, K. 2013. Site Conservation during the Rescue Excavations. In Excavations at Zeugma. Ed. W. Aylward. Los Altos, California: The Packard Humanities Institute, pp. 55-70.
O’Grady, C.R. expected 2017. Gentlewomen in the Field and Museum: Unacknowledged Pioneers in the Development of Conservation as both Profession and University Discipline – the London Case. In Engaging Conservation: Collaboration Across Disciplines. Eds. Lynn Grant, Julia Lawson, Nina Owczarek. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum.
Petrie, W.M.F. 1904. Methods & Aims in Archaeology. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited (New York: The Macmillan Company).
Plenderleith, H.J. 1934. The Preservation of Antiquities. London: The Museums Association.
Rathgen, F. 1905. The Preservation of Antiquities – A Handbook for Curators. trans. George A. Auden and Harold A. Auden, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tufnell, O., Inge, C.H, and Harding, L. 1940. Lachish II (Tell ed Duweir). The Fosse Temple. London: Oxford University Press.
University of London Institute of Archaeology. 1956. Report of the Photographic Department. Twelfth Annual Report. London: University of London Institute of Archaeology pp 7.
University of London Institute of Archaeology. 1959. Report of the Director for the Session 1957-58. Fifteenth Annual Report. Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology 2: 72-84.
Guest post by Sarah Longair (University of Lincoln)
Camels are an occasional but telling presence in the Lankester Harding films: we see camels at rest, carrying supplies, and chewing in their characteristic fashion. These moments inspired me to consider the history of associations with this highly distinctive creature.
Camels in Context
By Amara Thornton
The Pathé Baby canisters in the Harding collection have their own story to tell. Although we’ve been focusing mainly on the contents of the footage through this project, there are valuable clues on the canisters that reveal a history of film camera equipment supplies and suppliers.
The film “Discovering Pathé Baby” showcases this history. Labelling the canisters before they were sent to be digitised gave me an opportunity to examine them in more detail, and in doing this I began to uncover a few local stories tied to two cities – Jerusalem and Cairo.
Eye-catching partially damaged red labels on two of the canisters had enough text left to confirm the name Hanania Brothers.
Hanania Brothers was a licensed dealer in photographic equipment established in 1928 by Tewfik and Pascal Hanania. Their partnership was announced in the Jerusalem newspaper Palestine Bulletin in January that year. By 1934 there were two branches – one in Jerusalem and the other in Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast. The Jerusalem branch (most likely the one Harding used for developing his films) was on the Jaffa Road, one of the main thoroughfares leading into the heart of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate.
Not far from the Gate was Allenby Square, and near that was the Telegraph and Post Office. Cook’s Traveller’s Handbook to Palestine, Syria and Iraq (1934) includes an advert for Hanania Brothers indicating the shop was near the Post Office.
Another printed label in the Harding film canister collection read “Dev. par Cicurel”. Helpfully, a digitised 1925 Pathé Baby catalogue provided the crucial clue. A list ordered by continent of official “concessionaires” for Pathé products at the beginning of the catalogue includes one in Africa - “Les Fils de M. Cicurel” at No 3 Avenue de Boulac, Cairo. Also known as Shari Boulak this street in downtown Cairo went west from the Ezbekiyeh Gardens to the neighbourhood of Boulak (Bulaq). It was the border between Cairo’s Ismailiyeh and Tewfekiyeh districts – Baedeker’s guidebook (1914) called Ismailiyeh “the fashionable quarter and the seat of the European trade.”
Moreno Cicurel established “Au Petit Bazar” in 1910, and this grew into a large department store, renamed “Les Grandes Magasines de Nouveautés Cicurel” with the business carried on by his sons. Cairo was a popular stop en route to Palestine, the cosmopolitan capital had a long-standing European community and its shopkeepers were accustomed to catering for their needs. For destinations in Southern Palestine (where Harding was first based when he started making films), arriving at or leaving from Alexandria, stopping in Cairo for supplies and museum visits and going overland via Port Said and Kantara would have been one possible (though not direct) route.
The 1925 Pathé Baby catalogue helps illuminate the accoutrement of amateur filmmaking during this period, and provides an anatomical guide to the cameras and projectors through a meticulous list of all the spare parts needed to keep the mechanisms going as well as a range of optional “extras”.
Leatherette or aluminium carrying cases were available for cameras and projectors; empty canisters could be held (100 at a time) in a small attaché-style case with special grooves sized to fit the small metal cylinders. Twenty-four inch or one metre wide silver screens (the latter with a collapsible frame) emblazoned with “Pathé Baby” at the top, were also available for purchase. The “Babycolour” projector enabled filmmakers to add colour tints over black and white footage. With a “Babygraph” attachment intertitles could be filmed. If desired, a special green velvet lined Camera case was available with individual compartments for camera, tripod and film cassettes – a filmmaker’s paradise in one bag.
We don’t have Harding’s camera or any other equipment in the collection, but by looking more closely at the canisters I’ve gained some insights into the practicalities, logistics and geographies of Harding’s filmmaking experience.
Lumby, C. (Ed.). 1934. Cook's Traveller's Handbook to Palestine, Syria and Iraq. London: Simpkin Marshall.
Pathé Cinema. 1925. Pathé-Baby Catalogue Général des Appareils & Accessoires. Paris: Pathé Freres.
Palestine Bulletin, 1928. Palestine from Day to Day: Registration of Partnerships. Palestine Bulletin [Online at National Library of Israel]. 4 January. p. 3.
Reynolds, N. A City Consumed: Urban Commerce, the Cairo Fire, and the Politics of Decolonization in Egypt. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Sparks, R. 2013. Flinders Petrie: An Adventure in Transcription. UCL Museums and Collections blog [Online].
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