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)
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.
By Amara Thornton
I’ve spent hours going through Lankester Harding’s footage since we received the digitised version earlier this year. The digital file we received was all the individual films sequentially rolled into one, making up about an hour and a half of ‘raw’ footage. There were short breaks where the ‘leaders’ attached to each canister’s roll indicated the reference number we had assigned it – LH1 and so on. So one of my first tasks was to separate the digitised files into each canister’s film using the leader breaks as a guide. I was able to do this relatively easily in iMovie, and since then I’ve been experimenting with creating bespoke films using the footage and related digitised archive material in order to draw out different facets of the film and the archive. Each time I watch it I see something new, which is pretty exciting!
I made this short film for the Institute’s recent World Archaeology Festival event on 11 June this year. Having the Harding footage in a digital format makes it pretty flexible in the creation of new narratives. Being able to manipulate the total film in iMovie allows me to view the footage almost frame by frame, bringing a new focus to my own viewing experience. And, it’s leading to the creation of new ‘archive’ of films – thematic ones.
The film embedded below features sequences from eighteen of Lankester Harding’s films. You will see the film canister reference numbers on the top left hand corner of the footage sequences. Harding’s photograph albums were also very useful in illustrating Harding’s initial experiences as an archaeologist in Mandate Palestine and his relationship with some of the workers on site. The photograph of Hilda Petrie was in one of his albums, as were the group photographs of local families. These might be particularly useful in future in helping to identify some of the workers featured on film. Thanks are also due to Alice Stevenson (Petrie Museum) and Robert Winckworth (UCL Records) for permission to include digitised images from each source.
I hope you enjoy this first ‘narrative’ film – there will be more to come!
By Ian Carroll and Amara Thornton
We have been marking the film canisters in the Harding collection in preparation for taking the film footage to be digitised. There are in total 46 metal canisters holding film stock in the collection, ranging in size from 68.4 mm to 51 mm. Once empty of film, each original canister will be kept.
Marking the original canisters will allow us to retain the association between the information on the film canister and the digitised film. This contextual information will be added as metadata in the archive's record.
Marking the film canisters was a three-stage process. First, paraloid was applied to the surface of the canister in an appropriate space, roughly the same place on each object. Many of the canisters had labels around the sides so we opted to mark the canisters on the top.
Once the paraloid was dry, we used white Rotring ink so that the numbers would show up on the surface of the black canisters. Then a second coat of paraloid was applied on top of the white painted number. In line with conservation technique, this process is reversible so the markings can be removed at any point if necessary.
We put canisters into rough groupings, partially guided by references in the archive. Canisters with site names on the labels were kept together, and any numbers were put in sequence where possible. Although not all the canisters were labelled, some that were had information on the where the films were developed.
Labels on some of the films suggest that a few canisters may contain films bought for home viewing. In one case we found a partial film title peeking out from beneath a developers label.
Marking the film canisters enabled us to reflect on the range of material on the films in this collection. While some of it is certainly archaeological, there may be unexpected surprises in store. We’re looking forward to seeing the digitised footage and finding out whether the information we currently have is actually reflected on screen. In other words: do the films do what they say on the tin?
Guest post by Angela Saward (Curator of Moving Image and Sound, the Wellcome Library)
One of the gems within the Wellcome Library’s Moving Image & Sound Collection is the footage taken on Wellcome's second expedition to the Sudan at Gebel Moya. The expedition was well documented at the time and many related papers are held within the Wellcome Library's Archives and Manuscripts department. In fact revisiting these documents turned out to be a forensic exercise in detection.
Wellcome and his archive
Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853-1936), American by birth, entrepreneur, wealthy philanthropist and archaeologist, resourced his expeditions with care, engaging the best men for the job. The craft of cinematic production was very much in its infancy but all three Sudanese expeditions (1911-12, 1912-13 and 1913-14), engaged a stills photographer. On the first expedition this was R. C. Ryan, the second and third were attended by two: A. G. Barrett and C. H. Horton. No mention of the cinematic material was made in the published findings of the expedition, Frank Addison's The Wellcome excavations in the Sudan, which post-deceased HSW by 15 years.
The archives reveal the extent of the completed cinematic films to be:
Care was taken in the preservation and storage of this material; in total there were 9823 feet shot by Barrett and an unspecified amount by Ryan. A document dated 8th March 1921 notes that:
On reaching Dartford the matter upon each label should be written by hand in permanent paint upon the tins themselves, so that there may be no doubt as to the contents or likelihood of the labels becoming detached.
Arthur George Barrett was born in 1885 and in the 1911 census he listed his occupation as Press Photographer. He was married to Nancy Barrett and lived in Camberwell, South-East London. He was engaged by Wellcome on the 18th September 1912 for ‘artistic work’ and to go out to the Sudan; his salary was £3 10 Shillings a week (increasing to £4 10 shillings for the expedition for the following season).
When there was work available, he worked for Wellcome from 1912-1916 after which he joined the Royal Naval Air Service. He was then re-engaged in 1925. In the archive there are numerous letters sent by Barrett to the organisation whilst he was an employee, one of which was a request to HSW to personally recommend him in his application to be a member of the Royal Photographic Society for his photographic work at Gebel Moya – this was duly carried out.
Barrett achieved recognition for his invention of the kite camera to capture aerial photography over the excavations – as can be seen, it looks to be both ingenious and a somewhat Heath Robinson affair.
Also, in the guise of press photographer he is credited with capturing two historic moments: the notorious murderer Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen in 1911 and suffragette Emily Davison trampled under the King’s Horse at the Derby on 6th June 1913.
"A Day at Gebel Moya" never appears to have been publically screened. HSW hosted a number of formal events when some of the objects and artefacts from the expeditions were on display; copies of these invitations exist in the Wellcome Library. During Wellcome’s life-time, the 35mm nitrate film (negatives and positives) could not legally be screened at the Wellcome Institute as the venue was unlicensed to permit this. The flammability of nitrate film was well-documented and appropriate storage provision was organised for all the film materials held by the organisation.
A private screening which appears to have been solely for Wellcome and a few colleagues was organised at the Royal Society of Medicine which had a licence to screen nitrate film. Although the footage captured at Gebel Moya is shot-listed in detail, there’s no information about the creation of intertitles or a narrative structure so it seems possible that the sequences were an edited compilation of material with no narrative or chronology. The lack of an ‘official’ film which could be recognised as a creative piece of work with a unifying artistic integrity led directly to the demise of much of the material later on.
Whilst reviewing the costs, some dithering ensued. The Trustees sought advice regarding the historical value of the material based on the new shot-list created by an editor they engaged for this work. It was decided that the archaeological digs were satisfactorily captured photographically and due to the poor condition of the material, only a small number of sequences of archaeological interest could be retained. There were only two which were considered significant – the high angle extreme long-shot of the encampment and the excavations in the cemetery.
Fortunately, someone thought it appropriate to retain the rare surviving footage of HSW himself. However, lost are the first motor car in the Sudan (a Ford), more material of Wellcome carrying out inspections, walking around the camp and on a camel, a fire in the village and the evacuation of the villagers with their belongings, village views, views taken from a motor launch from Sennar to Abegeli, a trip with visitors up the Blue Nile and farewell scenes.
In 1955, a short sequence from the Gebel Moya footage which was transferred with a sepia tone was inserted into the Wellcome Foundation Film The Story of the Wellcome Foundation (1955) between 00:21:12:13 and 00:25:14:17. In the late 1960s, the Wellcome Trust’s stores were searched for nitrate material - no doubt largely as a result of insurance premiums. The remaining nitrate material was transferred to 35mm safety film and the originals were destroyed. These days even shrunk and damaged material can be scanned frame-by-frame. In the 1970s/80s, the remaining scenes were made into a ¾” Umatic and library access was via this material which was also on VHS. In the 1990s the material also features on a library compilation on Laser Disk which was screened on a television monitor outside the library.
By 2006, four cans of 35mm negative survived (some material is duplicated) and one 10 minute 35mm negative compilation master was discovered to be acetic (effected by vinegar syndrome). All the material is now digitised to tape and file based media. The acetic material is duped to polyester film. The film material should last 100+ years in the correct environmental conditions. The digital files are held within the Wellcome Library’s digital asset management system – they will be digitally migrated when required. All the digital material is backed up and mirrored on two sites.
It’s been an illuminating experience exploring the archive material about the excavations in the Sudan. One of my starting points in the research was the Wellcome Library catalogue which I used to unearth all the various official and unofficial documentation about the excavations (the latter proving the most interesting). The library has an institutional membership of the online resource Ancestry, which proved invaluable in finding out more about Barrett, the photographer.
One of the legacies of the expedition is the quality of the remaining footage shot by Barrett which I believe has a great appeal to a contemporary audience. It captures so wonderfully the scale of the works and the interaction between the workers. Barrett had a good eye - the depth of field in the material is excellent and the material was shot in very challenging conditions in the heat and the dust. Henry Wellcome would have been very cross indeed to discover that only a small part of this cinematic record remains.
By Ken Walton
At the end of April, Filming Antiquity screened two different excavation films at the Petrie Museum for the “Capturing Light” event. These two films, of Henry Wellcome’s excavations at Jebel Moya, Sudan (1912/13) and Egypt Exploration Society (EES) excavations at Amarna, Egypt (1930-1933), were made at very different periods. The Wellcome film is more or less “Edwardian” and the EES film very much of the inter-war era. Between the two periods there had been many advances in film and filmmaking including the invention of clockwork camera motors yet we still see Hillary Waddington using a hand-cranked camera in his 1930s Amarna film.
I received a Diploma in professional film production at the London Film School, and then worked at the London Film School in the editing department before coming to study Archaeology at UCL. While research into the archives relating to these films is ongoing, I will offer some insights into the kinds of equipment and techniques used during these eras to capture these fascinating moving images.
Frank Addison makes no mention of the filming in his 1949 site report on Jebel Moya, but recent research by Angela Saward, the Wellcome Library's Curator of Moving Image and Sound, suggests the cameraman was expedition photographer Arthur Barrett (more on him in a future post!)
At present it is unclear what kind of movie camera was used to film the 1912/13 Jebel Moya season, but at this early stage in filmmaking, it was the French and British that led the field. There are a number of candidates for the camera used, including British made movie cameras such as the Williamson or the Moy and Bastie. Although it was not imported to Britain until 1914 the French made ‘Debrie Parvo’ (‘Parvo’ meaning ‘compact’) invented in 1908, was widely used by the time of the Jebel Moya excavations. Wellcome, a wealthy man and someone who might want the best and could afford it, could still have privately imported the advanced Debrie.
There was no 16mm film in the early 1900s and the Jebel Moya film was shot on 35mm film. The Debrie Parvo would have held 390ft of film which was hand-cranked and would have lasted 6 minutes at 16 frames per second. It was encased in a wooden box but it had an inner metal case and workings of metal. This would be an advantage in places like Africa where mould and insects had been known to attack wood and leather.
Being hand-crank cameras, both the Jebel Moya and the EES Amarna cameras would have had to be tripod mounted. The Cine-Kodak Model A was also 16 frames per-second - it was really an amateur camera compared with the earlier Debrie Parvo, which was considered ‘professional’.
The Debrie allowed the camera operator to focus through the 'taking lens' - the lens the film was exposed with. This was achieved by having a 'ruby window' (red filter) in the viewfinder. Because the film was more or less 'orthochromatic' (only sensitive to the blue and green light of the spectrum) the red filter enabled the operator to view through the taking lens without affecting the exposure of the film. As I understand it, the film could be moved to the side and the image viewed directly, or on a ground glass; the image was upright. Once focused the 'ruby window' viewfinder could be closed and the operator would then use the side-finder for normal filming. Another plus for the Debrie was the ability to alter the shutter speed.
All this was quite a contrast to the later amateur Cine Kodak Model A Waddington used at Amarna. This camera had a 'fixed focus' standard lens (25mm, being a 16mm camera) with the camera operator having to use the built-in finder that did not see through the taking lens and gave an upside down image. It was not in fact until the 1940s that the German company ‘Arriflex’ invented the rotating mirror shutter mechanism that camera operators could see a high quality image through the lens whilst filming. There were sophisticated side finders and prism finders before this like the ‘Mitchell’ but the Arriflex device was the great breakthrough.
Exposure might have been difficult for the Debrie with no exposure meters at the time, but the operator could have relied on charts suggesting the right f-stop - the lens aperture opening - for various lighting conditions. Exposure meters were just coming in when Waddington began filming in the 1930s. The f-stop and film stock light absorbing speed, its American Standards Association rating, were the only variables as far as exposure was concerned because the shutter speed was fixed on the Cine Kodak Model A. Stock would have been cheaper for Waddington to buy because whereas 35mm comes out as 16 frames per foot the new 16mm was 40 frames per foot.
With hand-cranking, any variation in the cranking speed could have resulted in a change of exposure. Slightly slower cranking would lead to more light on the film and overexposure. This may account for fluctuations in the filmed image when the film sometimes becomes lighter or darker. This fluctuation does not happen with motorised cameras that keep to speed.
Waddington achieves slow motion in part of the EES Amarna film. To accomplish this effect Waddington would have had to increase his hand cranking and at the same time open his aperture to compensate for less light reaching the film. Alternatively, he could have printed each or every other frame twice which would have had the same effect for the audience. We would need to see the film-frames to know for certain how it was done, or look at the digitised version frame by frame.
Another feature of all films, hand-cranked or motorised, is the ‘flash-frame’. This is a portion of overexposed film just at the start and finish of a ‘take’ and is due to the camera running slow at these times. A classic sign of un-edited ‘rushes’ (the first ungraded or ‘one-light print’ of a film for viewing by the director and editor) is the inclusion of flash-frames. Flash-frames would normally be removed by the editor in a finished film. Interestingly, in the sequence showing the “division” of artefacts in the 1930s Amarna footage what look like flash-frames appear. The footage also includes film information boards describing the shots. Normally these boards are only used by the editor and would be removed from the finished film. All this suggests at least some of the Amarna footage that was digitised was unedited.
We know John Pendlebury gave some film shows of the EES Amarna work (e.g. at the Society of Antiquaries) so there may be a finished film still surviving somewhere. The EES Amarna films that were scanned onto VHS (and then unfortunately disposed of in the 1980s) look like they might have been just the unedited ‘rushes’ and not the finished film.
The Jebel Moya film was ‘Nitrate stock’ and prone to dangerous deterioration, while Waddington’s film was Cellulose Diacetate safety stock invented in 1923 and used to make the early 16mm films. Movie film nitrate stock was only ever produced in 35mm and done away with in 1951. The Jebel Moya film stock eventually deteriorated and was destroyed, but the Waddington film stock survived. Both films would have had negatives - the Jebel Moya negative is lost to us, but could the Amarna negative have survived?
Raimondo-Souto, M. 2006. Motion Picture Photography: A History. Mc Farland Co. Inc.
Salt, B. 2009. Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis. (3rd edn.). Starword.
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