A Day in Jerusalem

By Charlotte Kelsted

In April 2018, a generous travel grant from the Palestine Exploration Fund allowed me to carry out an introductory research trip to Palestine. My research explores the attitudes and experiences of British women (colonial wives, missionaries, teachers, nurses and others) who resided in Palestine during the British Mandate (1920-1948), focusing specifically on encounters between these British women and local Palestinian Arab and Jewish communities. I started my PhD seven months ago, and this research trip has undoubtedly been the highlight of my doctoral study thus far.

After arriving into Tel Aviv late in the evening, I spent the first night of my trip at the charming Kenyon Institute in East Jerusalem. The Kenyon Institute, formerly the British School of Archaeology at Jerusalem (BSAJ), was established during the British military administration of Palestine in 1919, as result of a joint effort by the Palestine Exploration Fund, the British Academy and the Foreign Office. The library at the Kenyon Institute contains over 10,000 volumes on the Middle East and is particularly rich in material relating to Mandate Palestine.

Next to the Kenyon Institute is Dar Issaf Nashashibi, an inspiring archive and library devoted to promoting Palestinian cultural heritage. Dar Issaf Nashashibi was my first stop in Jerusalem and I was fortunate to meet Dua, Head Librarian, who was exceptionally helpful. From the top of Dar Issaf Nashashibi one can see Mount Scopus and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Fig. 1). Founded in 1918 and inaugurated under the British Mandate, the Hebrew University has rapidly expanded since the early twentieth century: with 270 students in 1934, in 2017 there were 23,000 students registered at the university.

Fig. 1: Mount Scopus and Hebrew University of Jerusalem (photo by C. Kelsted).


Next I visited the Mount of Olives to see the Dome of the Rock in all its splendour. This iconic shrine dominates the Jerusalem landscape and as the golden dome sparkled in the midday sun, the adhan from Al-Aqsa Mosque drifted up the Mount of Olives. Setting eyes on this view for the first time was a stirring moment for me, having gazed longingly at a photograph of this view from my desk in Exeter for several months prior to the trip (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: The Dome of the Rock seen from Mount of Olives (photo by C. Kelsted).

Back in the heart of this remarkable city in the afternoon, I entered the Old City for the first time through Damascus Gate. The atmosphere that greeted me was intoxicating: narrow passageways full to bursting with fervent tourists, locals expertly weaving in and out of the crowds as they attempt to carry out their daily business, clamorous shopkeepers and street vendors selling their wares, young men speeding through the ancient, cobbled streets on motorbikes, popping up behind you without a moment’s warning and the intoxicating smell of cinnamon and other aromatic herbs and spices emanating from the souq.

Escaping the intensity of the Old City, I roamed along the ramparts from Jaffa Gate to Damascus Gate and onwards, finally reaching the Spafford’s Children Centre. I had first heard the moving story of this centre from The Right Honourable Lady Cope of Berkeley at a Remembrance Service for the British Palestine Police in November 2017, and had been looking forward to visiting ever since.

The Spafford’s Children Centre was founded by Bertha Spafford Vester – an ancestor of the Rt Hon. Lady Cope, a patron of the British Palestine Police Association – in 1925 (Fig. 3 – Special thanks to Rachel Lev at the American Colony Archives, for kindly supplying this image).

Fig. 3: Mothers, nurses and children, Anna Spafford Baby Home (today the Spafford Children’s Centre), 1925 – 1934; part of Members and Activities of the American Colony and Aid Projects, 1926 – 1937 (courtesy of American Colony Archive, Jerusalem).

Bertha’s parents, Horatio and Anna Spafford were pious Christians who moved to the Holy Land in 1881 following the loss of four of their children at sea and another to scarlet fever. On arrival in the Holy Land, Horatio and Anna Spafford founded the American Colony and embarked on a project of philanthropic work to benefit all sections of Jerusalem’s population. In 1925, inspired by the work of her parents, Bertha established the Spafford Baby Home (now the Spafford Children’s Centre). To this day, the centre aims to assist all children and families in need of support, regardless of race or religion.

In the early evening I left the Old City and headed northwards, back to the Kenyon Institute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. On the way I came across St George’s Cathedral (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Façade of Saint George’s Cathedral (photo by C. Kelsted).

This cathedral was built in the late nineteenth century under the instruction of George Blyth, who had founded the Jerusalem and East Mission (now the Jerusalem and the Middle East Church Association) in 1888. This charming cathedral was the principal Anglican place of worship in the Palestine during the Mandate and thus a focal point for the British community between 1920 and 1948. Taking a moment to envision the British colonial wives, missionaries, teachers, nurses and others who would have congregated at this cathedral – several of whom taught at the adjoining school and college – was the perfect way to end my first day in Jerusalem.

In the Footsteps of Bliss and Dickie

By Yehiel Zelinger

The earliest excavations on the slopes of Jerusalem’s Mount Zion took place between the years 1894 and 1897 by Frederick J. Bliss and Archibald C. Dickie under the auspices of the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund. Due to issues in acquiring permits from the Ottoman authorities, the two excavated clandestinely by means of deep, narrow shafts interconnected via tunnels dug along the outer face of the defensive walls that enclosed the Mount from the south. The detailed and comprehensive account of their excavations is a milestone in the history of archaeological research in Jerusalem (Bliss and Dickie 1898).

Exposed walls on Mount Zion. Photo: Y. Zelinger.

On behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, since 2007 I have re-excavated a large portion of the city walls first exposed in Bliss and Dickie’s tunnels (Fig. 1). Thanks to a generous grant from the PEF, I was granted access to its rich archives and thus able to examine the two excavators’ original letters, maps and reports, and thus bring to light important details that had not been included in their original report. My first impression upon entering the archives was one of great anticipation at the wealth of information awaiting me. Even as a field archaeologist with some 25 years’ experience in excavating Jerusalem and its environs, I felt almost like a child set loose in a toy shop.

I found Bliss’ archives to contain dozens, if not hundreds, of letters, plans and pencil drawings, all pertaining to his work in Jerusalem in general and to the southern line of the city’s fortifications in particular. I was also curious as to whether he and Dickie noted certain walls or floors that did not come to light over the course of our own excavations. Although I often had difficulty deciphering his handwriting, it appears as though every week he would dispatch to the P.E.F. board a detailed report of his new findings — perhaps also as a means to recount for himself that week’s events.

Bliss’s markings on a map of Mount Zion. Photo: Y. Zelinger.

In these, the very early days of the ‘modern’ study of Jerusalem, I got a sense of just how much their activities had been carried out upon a near blank slate. Just one example has Bliss marking Mount Zion on a map as the City of David (Fig. 2). This evidently followed his discovery of the wall that enclosed Mount Zion from the south (which he originally vaguely ascribed to the First Temple period [8-7 Century BCE] but later correctly amended to the Second Temple period [1 Century BCE – 1 Century CE]); and, indeed, at this time it was not entirely clear whether the City of David was to be located on the southern slope of the Temple Mount or on Mount Zion.

Our own excavations on the southern slope of Mount Zion exposed a segment of an earlier line of fortifications, which we dated to the First Temple period (8-7 Century BCE). This came in addition to segments of the aforementioned Second Temple-period wall, as well as to those of the Byzantine Empress Eudocia’s 5th Century BCE fortifications. Bliss and Dickie did not come across segments of the early wall, even though they documented large quantities of Iron Age pottery and figurines. Likewise, Bliss made no mention of the early wall in his personal correspondence, no doubt due to the fact that it lay two meters south of Eudocia’s wall, and thus beyond the bounds of their narrow excavation tunnel – which measured on average only 70 cm in width! Some 120 years later, utilizing modern excavation methods, we were able to expose the broader picture.

With a great deal of work still ahead of me, my two weeks at the PEF archives were nevertheless immensely rewarding. There is no doubt that the multitude of documents belonging to these two pioneering scholars comprise a rare time capsule from which we can glean invaluable information on the ancient fortifications of this golden city.

Further Reading:

Bliss F. J. and Dickie A. C. 1898. Excavations at Jerusalem 1894-1897. London.

Medieval Metalwork in Bilād al-Shām

By Gregory Bilotto

Through the generous support of the Palestine Exploration Fund, I was able to visit two mediaeval Islamic archaeological sites and the metal artefacts recovered from their subsequent excavations for my research in metalwork in Bilād al-Shām (the Levant). These two sites, Ḳayṣāriyya (Caesarea) and Ṭabariyya (Tiberias), have provided the largest quantities of metalwork datable to the Fāţimid period (909-1172 CE).

My interest in mediaeval Islamic metalwork stemmed from working in numerous archaeological excavations completing my MA degree in Islamic architecture while living in Cairo, Egypt. My graduate studies focused the architecture of the Fāţimids – a dynasty that reached ultimate feats in structure and design.

Fāţimid decorative arts, principally the often-overlooked study of metalwork, also helped express these accomplishments. It was Fāţimid artisans’ metalwork production in mediaeval Bilād al-Shām, Ifrīḳiya (North Africa) and Miṣr (Egypt) that inspired me to continue my research in the doctoral programme at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Fig. 1. Copper-alloy vessels, 11th century CE cache Ṭabariyya, Israel Museum.
Photo G Bilotto, April 2016, courtesy Dr Na’ama Brosh.

Travelling from London to Jerusalem, my research brought me to the archaeological sites, but also to several museums in the Holy City. The Israel Museum, which contained a large quantity of the excavated metal objects (Fig. 1), had among its collection a copper-alloy and enamel vessel with human figural decoration. This type of decoration and enamel technique is exceptionally rare as there are no related examples from the Fāţimid period.

Fig. 2. Fāţimid copper-alloy vessel with human figural decoration in enamel, Israel Museum. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016, courtesy Dr Na’ama Brosh.

After holding this precious metal vessel in my hands, carefully examining the facial expressions and epigraphy, there is no doubt that it represents the epitome of Fāţimid art, which is truly incredible (Fig. 2). I also had the opportunity to visit the museum store administered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Bet Shemesh, outside Jerusalem (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. A view of the IAA store, Bet Shemesh. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016, courtesy Dr Ayala Lester.

The store holds the remainder of the excavated metalwork, mostly consisting of tools and scrap. These objects were extremely helpful in determining centres of metalwork production and technique (Fig. 4). My research continued in Jerusalem with examination of several mediaeval Islamic metal vessels at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum and a unique Fāţimid metal object at the Leo Aryeh Mayer Museum of Islamic Art.

Fig. 4. Copper-alloy scrap, 11th century CE Ṭabariyya, IAA store. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016, courtesy Dr Ayala Lester.

Arriving at the ruined mediaeval city of Ḳayṣāriyya for the first time, I was amazed and awed. The majestic coastal city has an exotic and almost tropical quality (Fig. 5). The living history was tangible, with years of habitation from the Romans to the Ottoman Empire, one can imagine ships and armies of conquest arriving throughout time.

Fig. 5. A northern view, Ḳayṣāriyya, with its antique and mediaeval ruins. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016.

The metal cache I was interested in was secreted away during the 11th century CE – a time when one of these conquering armies was invading; another such event occurred at Ṭabariyya.  I noted many unpublished details about the geography during my visit, and examining the findspot for the cache of metalwork was not only exciting but extremely helpful in placing the material in context (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Findspot of the Fāţimid metal cache, Ḳayṣāriyya. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016.

Further Reading

Arnon, Y., et al. 1999. ‘The Fatimid Hoard from Caesarea: A Preliminary Report’, in M. Barrucand (ed), L’ Égypte Fatimide: son art et son histoire, Paris: Presse l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 233-48.

Hirschfeld, Y., et al. 2008. Tiberias Excavations in the House of the Bronzes, Final Report

Volume I: Architecture, Stratigraphy and Small Finds, (Qedem 48), Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Khamis, E., 2013. The Fatimid Metalwork Hoard from Tiberias: Excavations in the House of the Bronzes, Final Report Volume II, (Qedem 55), Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Rosen-Ayalon, M., 2013. ‘A Unique Metal Object from Tiberias’, Atiqot 76, 173-81.

Stacey, D., et al. 2004. Excavations at Tiberias 1973-1974: The Early Islamic Periods, (IAA Reports 21), Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority.


Basement Discoveries at the PEF

By Christine Spenuk (PEF Volunteer)

“The original mission statement of the PEF was to promote research into the archaeology and history, manners and customs and culture, topography, geology and natural sciences of biblical Palestine and the Levant.” (PEF website/History)

This is a mission statement that I believe to still be true today. The Palestine Exploration Fund, as I have come to know it, is a space that is welcoming to scholars, students, and individuals wishing to learn more about the history of Palestine by looking through the vast and varied collections stored on site. In the time I have been volunteering at the PEF I have seen archaeologists, students, teachers and visitors to London come seeking certain materials to learn more about a specific subject, from 19th century PEF explorer Charles Warren’s Jerusalem maps, to photographs taken at excavations from a certain site to locating a specific book stored in the library.

PEF/AO/2359: A ceramic jug, likely made in the early Roman period (c. 1st Century BC – 1st Century BCE), discovered during John and Molly Crowfoot’s Samaria excavations in the 1930s. Photo. C. S.

I became aware of the Palestine Exploration Fund through one of my university professors. After mentioning to her that I was going to be spending the next 2 years living and working in London, she told me about the PEF’s 150th Anniversary Conference taking place in June 2015. I was intrigued; I had just finished university and hadn’t had much of a chance to explore many archaeological organizations other than the ones around my school and home (both in Canada). I attended the day-long conference and the following summer sent an email to the curator, Felicity Cobbing, asking about volunteer opportunities within the organization. That fall (September 2016) I began volunteering at the PEF.

PEF/AO/100: A ceramic juggler; dating to the Middle Bronze IIA (currently thought to be c.1950 BCE) from Charles Warren’s excavations in Jerusalem in the late 1860s. Photo: C. S.

At first I was unsure of what I would be doing, but having both experience in photographing artefacts and working with a collection of artefacts from a previous job in Canada, I was hopeful my role would be one I was familiar with (and it is). I am busy photographing the PEF’s extensive collection of archaeological artefacts.

There are over 6,000 artefacts in the archive and so far I have photographed just over 2,000, mainly from three excavations: Charles Warren’s Jerusalem excavations (1867-1870), Flinders Petrie and Frederick Bliss’s Tell el Hesi excavations (1890-92), and British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem/Harvard University excavations at Samaria (led by John and Molly Crowfoot in the 1930s). Included in these artefacts are beautifully intact pieces of pottery, potsherds, glass pieces, tiny beads, charred ivory fragments (a lot of these), tiny pieces of gold leaf (which stick to everything you don’t want them to making photographing challenging), and small scarabs. Many of these artefacts are so tiny I am worried my camera won’t be able to zoom in close enough to capture the stunning details, but so far my sturdy Sony hasn’t let me down. The size of some of the fragments means it is not always possible to determine what the shard once was.

PEF/AO/2273: Fragments from John and Molly Crowfoot’s excavations at Samaria in the 1930s; ivory fragments (black). Photo: C. S.

PEF/AO/1973: Glass rim fragment (c. 4th – 6th centuries CE) discovered during the Samaria excavations. Photo: C. S.

PEF/AO/68: A medieval Islamic hand-made pottery lamp with painted decoration and glaze, discovered during Warren’s excavations in Jerusalem. Photo: C. S.

The full collection is housed in the basement of the PEF; a cramped cluttered space with every inch of available space used for storage. Even the furniture holds historical significance. While the space is small, and the storage of the artefacts is less than ideal, I go to basement happily; every day I am there I discover another piece of the past that I would not have seen otherwise. I can definitely say that I much prefer to be working in a basement getting covered in 1,000 year old dirt to sitting in an office typing on a computer all day!

Author at work photographing objects at the PEF.

Miscellanea of Duncan Mackenzie

By Sarah Irving

This summer, a travel grant from the Palestine Exploration Fund allowed me to spend some time in London, rifling through the PEF’s archives for traces of Yusif ‘Abu Selim’ Khazin and Yusif Khattar Kanaan, two Lebanese Christian overseers who, between 1890 and World War One, worked on the Fund’s excavations.

My primary interest, and the focus of this piece of research, is the role of Arabs working on archaeological digs in Palestine in the Late Ottoman period. The standard view of the archaeology of this period tends to focus on a single (white, educated, male) leader who makes pioneering discoveries and to whom all credit for a dig accrues. As future publications emerging from this research will show, this image often does not hold up under scrutiny of the daily records and personal writings of excavators and their staff and visitors. I think that the two Yusifs – as well as many other non-Westerners who contributed to British, American, German and French archaeological digs in the Holy Land pre-WWI – were actually important figures, not only in the practical, day-to-day running of the excavations, but also at times in how finds were understood and interpreted.

One part of my approach to this issue has been to look at the networks of contact and knowledge exchange which happened, not only in formal, academic settings but also in informal environments. Much of my focus has been on the writings and activities of Frederick J. Bliss and R.A.S. Macalister, as the two longest-serving PEF excavation leaders at the time. In this blog, though, I want to show a couple of small, rather peripheral, but also quite fascinating and indicative objects which emerged from the archives.

The first is a pair of calling-cards found in a wallet belonging to Duncan Mackenzie. Mackenzie was a Scottish archaeologist, best-known for his work with Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos in Crete. After Macalister’s resignation from the PEF to take up his chair at University College Dublin in 1909. Although Mackenzie had a reputation as a brilliant field archaeologist, he was also a difficult character; in a 1996 article for Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Nicoletta Momigliano described his time at the Fund’s Ain Shams dig as one of “conflicting interests and expectations, of misunderstandings and self-delusions, of wounded pride and dysentery. It is not a ‘success’ story”.

Calling-cards bestowed on Mackenzie by Boulus Said of “The Palestine Educational Store, Jaffa Road” and Gustaf Dalman, styling him “Rector of the German Archaeological Institute, Consul to His Majesty the King of the Swedes, Goths and Wends, and to the King of Denmark”. (PEF-DA-MACK-313.01 – 03)

Calling-cards bestowed on Mackenzie by Boulus Said of “The Palestine Educational Store, Jaffa Road” and Gustaf Dalman, styling him “Rector of the German Archaeological Institute, Consul to His Majesty the King of the Swedes, Goths and Wends, and to the King of Denmark”. (PEF-DA-MACK-313.01 – 03)

The calling-cards reflect, however, a different aspect of Mackenzie’s time in Palestine, his interactions with the intellectual and social milieu of Late Ottoman Jerusalem. Jerusalem is often painted a somewhat of a backwater, especially in contrast with Cairo and Beirut, the thriving centres of the Arabic Nahda, or renaissance. But the city saw much coming-and-going of Western scholars, missionaries, diplomats and businessmen, as well as a more stable population of local Arabs and Jews engaged in thinking, writing, studying and publishing. Mackenzie met many people from each of these overlapping social worlds, as these cards demonstrate.

The first was given to him by Boulus Said. Boulus owned the Palestine Educational Bookshop (the precursor to the Educational Bookshop on Salah Eddin Street, beloved of many visitors to present-day Jerusalem).  In his study of Palestinian books and literacy Reading Palestine, Ami Ayalon estimates that Boulus Said founded the bookshop around 1910 – so when he handed Duncan Mackenzie this card he had only recently set up his store. Later, on his return from the USA, Boulus’ cousin Wadie (later William) joined the business and established a branch in Cairo; Wadie is probably best-known as father of the great Palestinian scholar Edward Said.

The Palestine Educational Bookshop was not only one of the first bookstores and stationers in the country. It was also a publisher, and the company name appears on many works from the Mandate era, in both Arabic and English. A rival Jerusalem bookshop, the Andalus, advertised the fact that it could source books from Cairo within 24 hours, ordering via telegraph and receiving them through the railway which passed through Gaza and Jaffa to arrive in Jerusalem; there seems little reason why the Educational, with its Cairo branch, could not have performed similar feats. Certainly newspaper adverts highlight its range of international titles.

The presence of a calling-card from Boulus Said in Mackenzie’s wallet, therefore, represents a beginning – an early moment in the development of a significant cultural and intellectual phenomenon in pre-1948 Jerusalem, and the linkage of that moment to some of the most important figures in twentieth-century Palestinian history. The second calling-card, though, represents something more like an ending. It came from Gustaf Dalman, a German Orientalist, theologian and ethnographer.

In the 1890s and 1910s Dalman had lived and worked in Palestine (he also, early in his career, applied to become a Free Church of Scotland missionary there), and published major works on, in particular, the Aramaic language, Hebrew theology, and Christianity. At this point in time, German researchers were producing some of the most important scholarship on both contemporary and historic Palestine, and Dalman was foremost amongst them. But soon after Mackenzie left Palestine in 1913, WWI saw German influence in the Middle East (via its ally, the Ottoman Empire), collapse.

The American archaeologist WF Albright recorded just after the war that Dalman had returned to Jerusalem, but that his rivals amongst the British and French scholars in the city were trying to have his passport revoked. The portrait Albright’s letters paint of Dalman is of a rather sad and isolated figure. Mackenzie’s collection of cards, therefore, bears witness not only to the rise of a distinctive Palestinian literary and social milieu with Boulus Said, but also to the decline of Germany’s heyday in the Ottoman-ruled Holy Land.

Caption: A well-travelled envelope carrying a letter to Duncan Mackenzie, via Cairo, Wadi Halfa and back to Alexandria. (PEF/DA/MACK300)

Caption: A well-travelled envelope carrying a letter to Duncan Mackenzie, via Cairo, Wadi Halfa and back to Alexandria. (PEF/DA/MACK300)

Caption: Reverse side of the envelope showing further stamps. (PEF/DA/MACK300)

Caption: Reverse side of the envelope showing further stamps. (PEF/DA/MACK300)

The final small item also represents an ending, although on lesser scale. A little envelope, addressed to Mackenzie (care of the Thomas Cook travel agency), it is liberally covered with the stamps of postal offices stretching from Alexandria, via Cairo and Wadi Halfa, to Khartoum, and finally stamped ‘Unclaimed’. All date from 1913, and show it to be a remnant of the PEF’s attempts to contact Mackenzie during his employment on a dig in Sudan that year.

By this time he was embroiled in an acrimonious dispute with the Fund over the terms under which his employment had been terminated and his failure to deliver excavation reports from Ain Shams. The envelope – which presumably did reach Mackenzie, since it appears in the archive, or else was returned to its sender – highlights the efficiency of the Egyptian postal service in this era, and the reach of the British imperial administration. But with its array of postmarks and fruitless journey across North Africa, it also seems to echo the missed opportunities and miscommunications that marked the PEF’s relationship with this brilliant, troubled, unconventional man.

Further Reading:

Ayalon, A. 2004. Reading Palestine. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Momigliano, N. 1996.  Duncan Mackenzie and the Palestine Exploration Fund. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 128 (1): 139-170

Said, E. 2000. Out of Place: A Memoir. London: Granta.

Who Was Karimeh Abbud? Part 1

By Mary Pelletier

A quick Google search reveals an oft-repeated, neat little biography for Karimeh Abbud, complete with an image of her, stood next to a large-format camera, shutter release in hand.  Karimeh was allegedly the first female photographer in Palestine, born in 1896 to an esteemed, intellectual family who resided in Bethlehem. She also went by the title ‘Lady Photographer’, and proudly stamped the moniker on her prints. Seeing this calling card, I was hooked – how had Karimeh managed to make her mark in the old boys’ club of Holy Land photography practice?

Karimeh Abbud and her camera, Haifa, 1920s. Photo by C. Swaid (Source: Ahmad Mrowat, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 31, p.72)

Karimeh Abbud and her camera, Haifa, 1920s. Photo by C. Swaid (Source: Ahmad Mrowat, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 31, p.72)

The biographical information about Karimeh online was surprisingly one-dimensional. She had worked throughout Palestine, making her studio in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, specialising in photographs of women and families. Articles stated her importance with certainty, but I was curious as to the source of this information – did it come from her family? Who had declared her the ‘first’ Palestinian female photographer, or as some claimed, the first female to run a photographic business in the Middle East? What had happened to her photographs, and why weren’t they in a museum collection somewhere?

Karimeh Abbud studio stamp (Source: Ahmad Mrowat, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 31, p.72)

Karimeh Abbud studio stamp (Source: Ahmad Mrowat, Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 31, p.72)

With funding from the PEF, I got right down to asking anyone in Bethlehem and Jerusalem with photography knowledge who would listen – where can I find Karimeh Abbud and her photographs? Articles from the Jerusalem Quarterly and online sources cited the Nazareth Archive Project and Ahmad Mrowat as being the source of the research. The Nazareth Archive Project was said to house Karimeh’s work, but phone numbers to Mrowat were disconnected, as were phone numbers I tracked down for family members who were said to have helped compile this initial information, circa 2007.

Photograph of two unknown women taken by Karimeh Abbud (Source: Issam Nassar, Jerusalem Quarterly Issue 46, p.23)

Photograph of two unknown women taken by Karimeh Abbud (Source: Issam Nassar, Jerusalem Quarterly Issue 46, p.23)

Karimeh’s name seemed to be one that everyone knew – but no one knew much about. One Palestinian photography collector let out a long sigh when I asked him what he knew of Karimeh’s work, citing that her reputation had been overblown – her studio photographs were nothing special, photographically speaking.  I disagreed – I had been attracted to Abbud’s photographs because those I had seen online seemed much more intimate than the stage-y, directed portraiture of Jerusalem photographers like Khalil Ra’ad.

Looking at photographs from Issam Nassar’s collection, reproduced here, the subjects of her photographs seem to exude a comfort, both with their partners and with the photographer herself – as though the taking of the picture is not a transaction, but instead a sort of collaborative effort. (Nassar has written further on Abbud in the larger context of Middle Eastern portraiture in the Jerusalem Quarterly, cited below).

That skeptical collector also put me in touch with Rev. Mitri Raheb, head of Bethlehem’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, and, as it turned out, Karimeh’s unintentional biographer.

This photograph printed on carte postale has the stamp of Karimeh Abbud. It was sent with a note on the back to Um Diabis Abbud on October 30th, 1930 from Dmitri, whose last name is not legible. (Source: Issam Nassar, Jerusalem Quarterly Issue 46, p.28)

This photograph printed on carte postale has the stamp of Karimeh Abbud. It was sent with a note on the back to Um Diabis Abbud on October 30th, 1930 from Dmitri, whose last name is not legible. (Source: Issam Nassar, Jerusalem Quarterly Issue 46, p.28)

Meeting with Rev. Raheb helped to set some things straight about Karimeh’s biography – his book, a limited-print run paperback written in Arabic and with a foreword by Ahmad Mrowat, charts her life through Lutheran church records. He sets a clear picture of her life’s trajectory, her family life, the chances afforded her by her family’s status, even her marriage – many things left out of any online articles. All of the context afforded by Rev. Raheb’s publication is important, especially when considering the style of Karimeh’s subjects and her mobility.

Undated image of Abbud Family Members, taken by Karimeh Abbud. (Source: Raheb, Karimeh Abbud, p. 45)

Undated image of Abbud Family Members, taken by Karimeh Abbud. (Source: Raheb, Karimeh Abbud, p. 95)

:Undated image of Abbud Family Members, taken by Karimeh Abbud. (Source: Raheb, Karimeh Abbud, p. 44)

Undated image of Abbud Family Members, taken by Karimeh Abbud. (Source: Raheb, Karimeh Abbud, p. 94)

The images in the book had come from two Abbud family photographic albums. These two undated images, taken by Abbud herself, are reproduced on pages 94 & 95 of Raheb’s publication and demonstrate Abbud’s signature portraiture environment – the women here are comfortable with each other, but also with Abbud’s presence. It is obvious in both images that their proximity to one another demonstrate a close relationship – most likely mother and daughters, and then the two sisters, alone – but we also see that Abbud treated her familial subjects in the same way she treated her paying clients, and vice versa – there is a warm professionalism that plays out in each of these different sets of images.

It is the foreword by Mrowat in this text that seemed curious to me, however. Where earlier articles by Mrowat stated he had acquired ‘some 400’ Abbud photographs from an Israeli photography collector, this text (published 2011) noted a legal case brought against him by the same Israeli collector. He states that the collector had no right to keep the photos, as he was not related to her in any way. This calls into question the amount of weight placed on earlier claims for the archive in his articles – who actually owned the pictures that were being written about, did the author have permission from the owner(s) to use them, and were the claims accurate? Does the Nazareth Archive Project exist outside of articles bearing its name?

There are many outstanding questions I am in the process of answering – beginning with gaining access to the ‘some 400’ photographs that were the subject of this legal case. A ‘Part 2’ will be forthcoming!

Further reading:

Mrowat, A. 2007. “Karimeh Abbud: Early Woman Photographer (1896-1955).” Jerusalem Quarterly 31: 72-78.

Nassar, I. 2011. “Early Photography in Palestine: The Legacy of Karimeh Abbud.” Jerusalem Quarterly 46: 23-31.

Raheb, M. 2011. Karimeh Abbud: Pioneer Female Phographer of Palestine. Bethlehem, Palestine: Diyar Consortium. Print. Arabic language.

Touring Palestine

By Felicity Cobbing

“You’re going where? – Isn’t that a bit dangerous?” is a common response when I tell people I am off to Palestine, taking a holiday tour to the West Bank. Of course the region isn’t known for its peace and tranquillity, especially this year, which has seen some all-too familiar scenes of violence erupting once more. But tourists and other visitors are very safe here. The region’s reputation for hospitality is deservedly legendary, and Palestine is no exception. And the country is about so much more than the ongoing conflict and the headlines this generates.

Every year, I lead an archaeological and historical tour to Palestine on behalf of Martin Randall Travel in London, and Laila Tours in Bethlehem. Together with the tour manager, who this year was the utterly fabulous Heather Millican, we introduce a collection of complete strangers to this complex and fascinating corner of the world in a way that is hopefully a lot of fun as well as thought-provoking. The itinerary takes in archaeological and religious sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, and Samaria, and gives those on the tour an opportunity to see a part of the world usually only experienced by many of us in the West through dismal news reports.

The Dome of the Rock reflected in al Aksa

This year, a group of ten of us arrived in Palestine in the midst of the worst trouble the region has seen for a while, and though we were always perfectly safe and enjoyed the best of Palestinian hospitality, we were all very aware of the events unfolding around us. We were accompanied as always by our local guide, Dr. Hisham Khatib, and our coach driver George. I have got to know Hisham over several tours now, and I am always glad to have him with us. He is a friend, a gentleman and a scholar, and impresses everyone with his courtesy and knowledge. George was a new friend, but I was very glad to have him negotiating our path around the roads of Palestine, avoiding the worst of the road-blocks and finding alternative routes to our destinations. We also had the benefit of several local experts, who brought their unique knowledge to our visits of their sites.

Our guide, Hisham, and his mother in their home in the Old City, Jerusalem.

Our guide, Hisham, and his mother in their home in the Old City, Jerusalem.

Shimon Gibson and Hamdan Taha introduced us to the fabulous archaeology and history of sites in Jerusalem and at Tell as-Sultan (ancient Jericho) respectively, whilst the ever-enthusiastic Silvia Krapikow showed us round the Rockefeller Museum and archives, and Rachel Lev introduced us to the wonderful archival collections of the American Colony, a gem of a collection that surprised us all. Laila Slemiah who runs the women’s cooperative in Hebron impressed us all with her courage and determination to make a life for herself, her children and to support other women and their families through her work.

Rachel Lev, America Colony archives

Priest Hosni Cohen, the little brother of the High Priest and elder of the Samaritan community on Mount Gerizim very graciously introduced us to the unique perspective of the Samaritans, helped brilliantly by Ghalia Cohen and Marwa Mohammed who translated some of the more existential concepts into English. With one phone for Israel and another for Palestine, and three – yes three – passports (Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian), Priest Cohen transcends political barriers to go where he pleases, taking the teachings of Samaritan scripture with him. Organised tour holidays are not to everyone’s taste, but there is no doubt in my mind that they provide more of an opportunity to get under the skin of a country than is possible for an independent traveller, at least for a first relatively short visit. It’s also a wonderful way to make new friends, and I am sure I will be seeing quite a lot of some of those I got to know round at the PEF – something I anticipate with great pleasure!

Priest Hosni Cohen at the Samaritan Museum, Mount Gerizim.

Priest Hosni Cohen at the Samaritan Museum, Mount Gerizim.

Palestine is a part of the world of which I am very fond. I love the people, the history, the culture and the landscape: for such a tiny part of the world it packs a seriously powerful punch. It has been the theatre for some of the most important milestones of human history from the Neolithic revolution ten thousand years ago which saw the development of farming to the invention of the alphabet, and the emergence of the three great Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Hopefully, when I take the tour again this time next year, the political situation will have improved, and the next group of travellers will see a region full of hope and talent getting the chance to fulfil some of its potential.

What have these stones…?

By John Bartlett, formerly Editor of Palestine Exploration Quarterly and PEF Chairman

I took part, as my first experience of archaeology, in the second season (January-June, 1962) of Kathleen Kenyon‘s Jerusalem digs, which followed her famous Jericho excavations. Kenyon was particularly concerned to locate the early walls and so the early location of the city of Jerusalem, and made important Middle and Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age discoveries on the slopes of Ophel and elsewhere.

As one of the newest recruits, I was in charge of the lowest square at the bottom of the Ophel slope, with a pick-man, a hoe-man, and three basket boys. This involved climbing from top to bottom, and bottom to top, of the Ophel hillside at least twice a day, starting at 5.0 a.m.and working through until 2.0 p.m. Half way through the season I was transferred to the Armenian Garden, a pleasant and less exhausting location, where under the enthusiastic guidance of Pere de Vaux, and with the help of a small railway with a tipping truck, we excavated remains from medieval Jerusalem.

Among the team I remember Ian Blake, who with calm efficiency took over the photography when the official photographer fell into the trench and was hospitalised; David Ap-Thomas, who was Hon. Sec. of the Society for Old Testament Study; Agnes Spycket from  the Louvre, Dorothy Marshall who ran the technicalities of recording the pottery and finds, Awni Dajani from the Jordanian Dept of Antiquities, Peter Parr from the British School in Jerusalem, Douglas and Maggie Tushingham from the Royal Ontario Museum, Jo Callaway from the USA. Above all there were Pere de Vaux and some of his students from the Ecole Biblique, and Kathleen Kenyon herself, whose daily stamina as she walked up and down Ophel and drove the Pontiac car round the sites was astonishing, and whose ability to assess and guide our work on her daily visits to each square was inspiring.

After the daily siesta, in late afternoon as the walls of Jerusalem reflected a warm glow, I used to walk about  the old city, observing both buildings and the people. I was at the time a student preparing for ordination in the Church of England, and my introduction to other major Christian denominations and to the world of Islam in Jerusalem was an eye-opener. I realised immediately that there was more to religious belief than one Christian denomination could offer, and that has had a strong effect (I believe salutary) on my own contribution as a university teacher and Anglican clergyman.

This effect emerged in the sonnet I wrote that April. I wrote it because one evening after dinner, Ian Blake and I were talking with Theodora Newbould, who ruled Watson House and its domestic administration with great wisdom and efficiency. Ian was an English graduate of Trinity College, Dublin (where I subsequently became Associate Professor of Biblical studies), and we were talking about poetry. Theodora said that all young men should be able to write sonnets even if they could not write poetry, and we both took up the challenge, and presented Theodora the next morning with our efforts.

Mine is given here (hidden and forgotten for 50 years, it remerged from dusty files last month). Ian’s was better, but, alas, I have no copy of it. But I do recall that one morning he sent down the hill of Ophel to me at the bottom, by the hand of a basket boy, a piece inspired by Wordsworth and Coleridge which spoke of a vision that came upon the inward eye of a host of basket boys….

Jerusalem 1962 was a wonderful education for which I have always been grateful, and I salute the memory of Kathleen Kenyon and Pere de Vaux and all the many other members of the dig who contributed.

Jerusalem sonnet

Visiting Azekah, Lachish and J. L. Starkey’s resting place

By Abigail Zammit (continued from The Lachish Letters in Jerusalem)

Apart from my museum visits, my next important objective for the trip was to dedicate an entire day to scouting two particular sites. With four litres of water, sun lotion, hat, scale rods, a compass, a GPS, north-points, photographic equipment, and a tripod, I travelled south-west of Jerusalem to visit the archaeological sites of Azekah (Tel Azekah) and Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir/Tel Lachish), to photograph key features and points of interest at both tells. These sites were, after Jerusalem, the two most important and last remaining strongholds during the Babylonian invasion of Judah, in the early 6th century B.C.E. (Jeremiah 34:7).

Fig. 1. The author standing outside the park entrance to Tel Azekah.

Fig. 1. The author standing outside the park entrance to Tel Azekah. Photo: A. Zammit.

My first stop was Azekah (Fig. 1). The name of this ancient fortress features in ostracon Lachish 4, the writer of which expressed that he and his men could not see Azekah, but were looking for the beacon or fire-signals of Lachish. At Azekah, I could see fenced-off open trenches and general work-in-progress from the Lautenschläger Azekah Archaeological Expedition, a joint project between Tel Aviv University and the University of Heidelberg, which has been underway since 2012. Azekah is fairly large in size, but not as massive or imposing as Lachish, which dominates its surrounding countryside and vineyards.

Lachish was, of course, my next and last stop. For my research purposes, the main point of interest there is the so-called “guardroom”, the eastern room or tower upon entering the outer-gate to the fortress. The guardroom yielded sixteen of the Lachish Letters in the excavation season of 1935. Like Azekah, Lachish has now been turned into an Israeli National Park; the guardroom and most of the gateway area, also highly relevant to my research, have been lately reconstructed or restored by incorporating stone material, cobbles and gravel to the original walls and ruins in situ.

As a nod to Rev. Charles Bernard Mortlock’s 1935 photo of British archaeologist James Leslie Starkey at Lachish (Fig. 2) I took a similar photo of myself on site to indicate the findspot of the Lachish Letters inside the guardroom (Fig. 3). Other points of interest at the tell include the inner gate, which is partly fenced off, the palace ruins at the centre of the mound, and the saddle area at the southwestern corner of the tell.

Fig 2. James Leslie Starkey at the Lachish letters find site,  photograph taken by Rev. Charles Bernard Mortlock in 1935 (PEF-P-Portrait-Starkey). Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Fig 2. James Leslie Starkey at the Lachish letters find site, photograph taken by Rev. Charles Bernard Mortlock in 1935 (PEF-P-Portrait-Starkey). Copyright Palestine Exploration Fund.

Fig 4. The author standing in the reconstructed guardroom at Lachish and pointing to the findspot of the Lachish Letters, view south.

Fig 3. The author standing in the reconstructed guardroom at Lachish and pointing to the findspot of the Lachish Letters, view south. Photo: A. Zammit.

In the late 7th and early 6th centuries B.C.E., a series of domestic units or storerooms was built alongside the east wall of the ruined Palace C. Two of the Lachish ostraca (Lachish 20 and 21) were recovered from one of these rooms (L12:1065) in 1938, among the ashes of the destruction left by the Babylonian army. Most of these areas are today covered by lush overgrowth. Around different parts of the tell, I came across fenced-off areas which are currently excavated by the Fourth Expedition to Lachish, a joint project between The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Southern Adventist University, which commenced in 2013.

Back in Jerusalem, I didn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) headquarters at the Rockefeller Museum, namely the Archives and the Library. Moreover, I went to the National Library of Israel to access two articles on the Lachish Letters, by H. Torczyner (later N. H. Tur-Sinai) and A. Bergman respectively, that appeared in the daily journal Ha-‘aretz of 1936, today preserved on microfilm.

Nearing the end of my research trip, I toured the Old City and took the opportunity to visit the resting place of none other than archaeologist James Leslie Starkey (mentioned above; Fig. 2), who was buried at the Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery in Jerusalem on January 11th 1938 (Fig. 4). Starkey directed the British Mandate excavations of Lachish from 1932 until his murder on January 10th 1938. While at the Cemetery, I walked a few paces and climbed a few steps to an eastward upper field, to visit the grave of Starkey’s teacher, British Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie. This meaningful visit was a fitting conclusion to a most rewarding academic experience in Israel.

Fig 4. The author standing next to James Leslie Starkey’s tombstone, at the Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery, Jerusalem.

Fig 4. The author standing next to James Leslie Starkey’s tombstone, at the Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery, Jerusalem. Photo: A. Zammit.

I returned from my productive journey with 5GB of data, which scream “Well worth the trip!”. I also took with me fond memories of Jerusalem and of the several places of archaeological interest I explored. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation go to the Palestine Exploration Fund for providing me with financial support to conduct my research in Israel, which proved to be a truly enriching and worthwhile opportunity.

Cite this article as: [Author], "Visiting Azekah, Lachish and J. L. Starkey’s resting place," in Palestine Exploration Fund Blog, 1 July 2015, https://www.pef.org.uk/blog/visiting-azekah-lachish-and-j-l-starkeys-resting-place/.

Women of the PEF: Baroness Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts

By Adam John Fraser, PEF Librarian

Did you know the PEF got its start from a woman, the Victorian philanthropist and banking heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts? I was recently reading Charles Watson’s The Life of Major-General Sir Charles William Wilson (1909). Wilson was an officer in the Royal Engineers and was one of the most important early members of the PEF. He was responsible for conducting the first scientific survey of Jerusalem in 1864. In Wilson’s biography I came across this interesting statement:

The survey of Jerusalem originated in Miss Burdett Coutts’ wish to provide the city with a better water supply. She was told it was first necessary to make an accurate survey of the city, and for that purpose she placed £500 in the hands of a Committee, of whom the late Dean Stanley was one. He applied to the Secretary of State for War (p. 41)

This brief reference to Burdett-Coutts got me thinking about the women and history of the PEF. Having recently reviewed Kathleen Sheppard’s biography of the Egyptologist Margaret Murray, I’d become more aware of the fascinating history of women in archaeology. Here, I will shine some light on women in the history of the PEF, in particular Angela Burdett-Coutts.


An illustration of Angela Burdett-Coutts, after a portrait by J. R. Swinton in the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Coutts is an international private banking group; its long history spans over 300 years. In 1837, 24 year old Angela Burdett inherited the interest in a Trust and a half share in the Coutts Bank. As the heir to the banking family she became the public face of the Bank. This would have made her one of the wealthiest women in England (if not, the wealthiest).

Angela was actively involved in the affairs of the bank and also donated large portions of her private wealth. She was engaged in a great deal of philanthropic work; housing the destitute, caring for neglected children, extending women’s industrial opportunities, the exploration of Africa, protecting dumb animals, caring for those wounded in combat and scientific and technical education. Among her wide social circle was the novelist and keen social observer Charles Dickens. Together they set up Urania Cottage, a house for helping women who had fallen to prostitution.

The Water Relief project of Jerusalem in 1864 was an extension of Angela’s philanthropic work. The pre-existing water systems in Jerusalem consisted of cisterns which were contaminated by rainwater running through the streets.

The British public were horrified at the reality of the most holy city in Christianity being plagued with disease. Angela Burdett-Coutts established the Water Relief Committee to find a means to solve the problem. It was suggested that a survey of Jerusalem be undertaken in order to provide the city with a better water supply. In charge of the survey were the soldiers of the Royal Engineers, deemed to be the best in the Empire for this work.

Detail from Wilson's Survey of Jerusalem 1864-1865 showing the Old City and surrounds. Existing water cisterns are coloured blue. (PEF-M-OSJ 1864-5 PLAN 1- )

Detail from Wilson’s Survey of Jerusalem 1864-1865 showing the Old City and surrounds. Existing water cisterns are coloured blue. (PEF-M-OSJ 1864-5 PLAN 1).

Out of this Water Relief Fund that the PEF was born. The survey was a great success and the popularity that it garnered was enough to establish the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1865. Without her it is unlikely that the PEF would have emerged as it did (or even at all!)

Angela Burdett-Coutts had a remarkable life; this blog entry is nowhere near enough to discuss all the things she accomplished. But as we are celebrating our 150th anniversary this year, it is fitting to celebrate the women of the PEF as well as the men!

Further Reading

Healey, E. 2012. Coutts, Angela Georgina Burdett- suo jure Baroness Burdett-Coutts. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [Online]. Oxford University Press.

Sheppard, K. L. 2013. The Life of Margaret Alice Murray: A Woman’s Work in Archaeology. Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books.