Duncan Mackenzie at Beth Shemesh: first impressions

By Penny Butler

I’m starting on this new archive, and it’s always exciting writing on the database the number “001” and dreaming about how many more numbers there will be – surely not as many as Olga Tufnell’s photographs (my last project) which came to around 1,500 items.

Duncan Mackenzie (1861-1934) was a pre-eminent field archaeologist whose work was chiefly concerned with three very important Aegean and Ancient Near East sites. He worked at Phylakopi on Melos between 1896 and 1899 and under Arthur Evans he worked at Knossos from 1900-1910 and 1914-1934.  Between his two Knossos stints there was Palestine.  He went out in 1910, but couldn’t get a firman, so he went on a side trip with his photographer, Francis G. Newton, to Jordan, Syria and the Plain of Philistia. Afterwards he was appointed “Explorer” by the PEF and excavated at Beth Shemesh 1911-12.

A dolmen in Jordan with two armed tribesmen (PEF-P-MACK-33).

A dolmen in Jordan with two armed tribesmen (PEF-P-MACK-33).

The PEF has archived much of Mackenzie’s materials, including academic material and his correspondence with the PEF, dig reports and drawings. The Fund has also archives of some of his photographer F. G. Newton’s materials. A PEF Annual, which includes a transcription of one of his daybooks, will be coming out soon.

Felicity handed me three books. One, a fat larger than A4 size handmade photo album, bound in thick white paper, with two black and white photos per page mounted on brown paper -disappointingly faded – with so far views of ruins and dolmens near Madeba and other desert places, arid landscapes featuring at a rough count two people per 20 photos. Second, an old maroon-bound large book with list upon list of photographs, in handwriting. Third, a little yellow bound book with typewritten lists of photos, a collation of those catalogued in 1889 and those catalogued in 1920, with ‘x’s in three columns to denote various things too arcane for me to fathom. The job is to collate all three with specific reference to Mackenzie and write up the database. So my day is spent with three open books, poring over the lists and every so often working out which photo is which and making an entry.

I plan to write a series of blogs during this project.  So far I am still in Jordan – more in my next!

1 thought on “Duncan Mackenzie at Beth Shemesh: first impressions”

  1. Duncan Mackenzie co-authored in 1911 the first ever “PEF Annual 1911”. The first two sections were by Mackenzie on Megalithic Monuments at Amman and the second on excavations at Ain Shems. It was illustrated by plans and drawings by Francis Newton.

    My collection contains three copies of this Annual. Although I am not an archaeologist I shall be delighted to be of help, if any.

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