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October 16, 2018


Emily Prtak, University of Liverpool, Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology

I am a MRes Archaeology student at the University of Liverpool, under the supervision of Dr Rachel Pope. My dissertation concentrates on Molly Cotton’s unpublished 1930s hillfort archive, held at the Institute of Archaeology, Oxford. I will be writing a history of the development of British hillfort studies, mapping Cotton’s hillfort research with GIS, and critically assessing her methods and contribution to the area of research. My interest is in prehistoric archaeology, but also in how the history of the discipline of archaeology is created. I hope that my work can contribute towards the movement of highlighting the work of female archaeologists in Britain in the early 20th century; one of my research outcomes will be a biography of Molly Cotton’s working life.

Welcome, Emily, and many thanks for joining our community!


Free Book! Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator

October 12, 2018

Those terrifically kind people at Archaeopress have given us a review copy of David Gill‘s latest book

Lamb_cover (1)

The publishers say:

Winifred Lamb was a pioneering archaeologist in Anatolia and the Aegean. She studied classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and subsequently served in naval intelligence alongside J. D. Beazley during the final stages of the First World War. As war drew to a close, Sydney Cockerell, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, invited Lamb to be the honorary keeper of Greek antiquities. Over the next 40 years she created a prehistoric gallery, marking the university’s contribution to excavations in the Aegean, and developed the museum’s holdings of classical bronzes and Athenian figure-decorated pottery. Lamb formed a parallel career excavating in the Aegean. She was admitted as a student of the British School at Athens and served as assistant director on the Mycenae excavations under Alan Wace and Carl Blegen. After further work at Sparta and on prehistoric mounds in Macedonia, Lamb identified and excavated a major Bronze Age site at Thermi on Lesbos. She conducted a brief excavation on Chios before directing a significant project at Kusura in Turkey. She was recruited for the Turkish language section of the BBC during the Second World War, and after the cessation of hostilities took an active part in the creation of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara. a. 

About the Author
David Gill is Professor of Archaeological Heritage at the University of Suffolk and Visiting Research Fellow in the School of History at the University of East Anglia. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and Sir James Knott Fellow at Newcastle University. He was responsible for the Greek and Roman collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, before moving to Swansea University where he was Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology. In 2012 he received the Outstanding Public Service Award from the Archaeological Institute of America for his research on cultural property. 

If you want a chance to own this book in exchange for a review I can publish on the blog then send me an email to before Monday the 15th of October.


NPAPH – Documentation of Mari, Dura Europos and Apamea

October 11, 2018

HARN member, Bert Wagemakers, has been in touch with the following request:

The Non-Professional Archaeological Photographs project (NPAPH; has the aim to preserve non-professional documentation of 
past archaeological campaigns to the future and make it accessible to 
the public via digital archives.
The term ‘non-professional’ refers to records made by visitors or 
participants of excavations who were not part of the trained staff, but 
who assisted as part of their continuing education or out of interest, 
for instance students, volunteers, reporters or sponsors. Secondly, this 
category of documentation includes also the private photos, slides, 
films, letters, diaries, etc made at the excavation by the 
archaeological staff. So non-professional records are usually not stored 
in official archives.

At the moment we are tracing documentation of the excavations of the 
following Syrian sites:
– Mari/ Tell Hariri (1933 – 1939, 1951 – 1956 and 1960 – 1974).
– Dura Europos (1928 – 1937).
– Apamea (1930 – 1938, 1947 – 1953 and 1965).

If you know anyone who joined one of these archaeological expeditions or 
know someone who might have documentation of the sites, please contact We are also interested in any other record prior the 
1980s related to these sites.

Thank you in advance,

The NPAPH team

Exploring the Institutionalisation of Archaeology

October 3, 2018

HARN member, Subhashini Robert William, has been in touch to inform us of  a forthcoming seminar series taking place at King’s College, London exploring the relationship between Archaeology, Museums and Collections.

Speaker events are free and open to all and will take place at 6pm in the
Virginia Woolf Building, Room 6.01, King’s College London, 22 Kingsway,
London, WC2B 6LE

Speaker Programme

17th September 2018
Naomi Daw, PhD Student, University of Sussex
Walk Like An Egyptian: Stereoscopic Photography and British Travel to Egypt

8th October 2018
Alexandra Jones, Curator, V&A Museum
Maqdala 1868: Ethiopian Treasures at the V&A

5th November 2018
Dr Eleanor Dobson, Lecturer in Nineteenth Century Literature, University of
Gothic Histories: Howard Carter and The Tomb of Tut-ankh-Amun

3rd December 2018
Nicole Cochrane, PhD Student, University of Hull
Ancient Sculpture and the Narrative of Collecting: Legacy and Identity in
Museum Display

28th January 2019
Dr Rebecca Wade, Assistant Curator for Sculpture, Henry Moore Foundation,
Domenico Brucciani and the Formation of Museums of Classical Archaeology

18th February 2019
Dr Emma Payne, King's College London
Plaster Casts, Restoration, and the Interpretation of Classical Sculpture

March 2019 (date TBC)
Alice Procter, Independent Tour Guide
Museums and Decolonisation

April 2019 (date TBC)
Dr Amara Thornton, Honorary Research Associate, UCL
Scripting Spadework: Publishing Archaeology in the late 19th and early 20th

For more information contact: Subha Robert William  or  Abbey Ellis:

Visit our blog: 
Tweet us: @ExploringInArch

Book Review – Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People

September 27, 2018

A HARNy treat! HARN member Amara Thornton‘s excellent Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People reviewed by HARN member Monica Barnes. A print copy of Amara’s book was generously supplied for review by UCL Press and don’t forget the book is available on open access so you can also read it for free – just go here and download it (or, as I did, email Kate and ask how to do techy things to get it on Kindle etc, turns out it’s super easy and even I managed).

Amara’s book is fascinating, intriguing, important and Monica’s review is equally excellent, focussed, balanced and informed, enjoy:

Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People by Amara Thornton. London: UCL Press, 2018. 312 pages, 22 illustrations.

In the 1970s, when I first began to study archaeology, popularising was a sin committed at the peril of one’s career. I learned to hide books like Gods, Graves, and Scholars and Royal Highway of the Sun. One should support oneself and one’s work with academic appointments, fellowships, and grants. If one couldn’t compete successfully (and the contest was, to some extent, rigged), one was supposed to drop out and live exiled from one’s passion, having been branded early in life as lacking the right stuff. Nevertheless, for those of us with an egalitarian philosophy, there was a certain discomfort. Weren’t the public, through the taxes that supported our funding, our ultimate patrons? And didn’t we owe them something? Don’t people have the right to follow their inclinations? Whose heritage is it, anyway?

So how was archaeology financed in the decades before governments, foundations, universities, museums, and corporate gifts supported research? Basically, if practitioners were not wealthy enough to fund themselves, they had to hustle. They commoditised themselves, their work, and their findings.

Amara Thornton’s Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People elucidates this time, from the late nineteenth century through the 1960s, when archaeologists cultivated their public personae, scripted their work for general consumption, and were generally and shamelessly ‘commerce minded’. Popular perceptions of archaeology still depend, to a considerable extent, on the way the first few generations presented themselves and their work. Findings were disseminated through a variety of popular and often ephemeral media including newspapers, magazines (think Illustrated London News), radio, (and later television) broadcasts, newsreels, lectures, and for-profit exhibitions. Although Thornton doesn’t mention it, because her focus in on archaeology by British practitioners conducted in Egypt and Western Asia, some South American archaeologists followed this route, too. Luminaries including Peru’s Julio C. Tello and Bolivia’s Geraldine Byrne de Caballero reported their work almost entirely in newspapers, once widely distributed, but now difficult to access. There were, of course, also books, including memoirs, guides, handbooks, popular histories, fiction, and writing aimed at children. Thornton concentrates on these permanent works without slighting other media. Yes, as Adso in The Name of the Rose would have observed, this is a book about books.

Thornton’s research methodology is set out clearly. She constructed a list of fifty British archaeologists active during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She then complied bibliographies for each. From this she was able to determine that some seventy UK firms published archaeology books aimed at segments of the general public. Some focused on Christian readers interested in the Bible. Others emphasized the classical world or ancient Egypt. Some produced up-market editions for well-educated, prosperous people, while others specialized in the least expensive works possible.

At this time archaeology was linked to imperial systems which provided both the infrastructure and security that allowed British excavators to operate in otherwise exotic foreign locales such as Egypt and Iraq. Tourism was also dependent upon imperialism, and archaeology was, and still is, fuelled by tourism. Fairly large numbers of Britons spent all, or part, of the winter in warmer climes, and they wished to be informed and entertained. This provided archaeologists with money-making opportunities as expert guides, lecturers, and writers of handbooks.

After the carnage of the First World War, it was recognized that many British (and French, and German) women would never marry and would, therefore, have to support themselves. Thus the slaughter of men did as much for feminism as decades of rational arguments. The situation was quite different on the other side of the Atlantic where loses were proportionately less severe and, perhaps consequently, women were often barred from archaeology. This situation persisted in the US into the 1970s when there was an academic consensus that young men needed to be sheltered from the military draft and the Vietnam War by offering them places as postgraduate students. That this came at the expense of women and less educated people seemed to be of little consequence at the time. It was only after reading Thornton’s book that I realized my own migration to Britain was motivated in part by the more welcoming atmosphere I felt there as a young, female, would-be archaeologist. Now the situation is quite different and very few men attend American field schools. That is, in itself, problematic.

At present there are many university training programs for archaeologists, but who trained the first generation, or, for that matter, the first generation of any profession? Are field archaeologists the only real archaeologists, or are those of us who work in museums, or in publishing, or broadcasting, or secondary education archaeologists, too? It seems the Society for American Archaeology is still struggling to issue an official statement delimiting our profession. Thornton tackles this issue in Chapter 2. Long before the universities got involved in archaeology, local and national learned societies promoted the investigation of the ancient past through its material remains. By the late nineteenth century, archaeology was formally taught at Oxford, Cambridge, and London and the first British School abroad had been established in Athens. Thornton has much to say on the evolution of archaeological education, training, and practice.  

Educating archaeologists is one thing, but finding ways for them to make a living is another. So long as academic archaeologists exist only to reproduce themselves, they operate a kind of Ponzi scheme, and this was apparent from the beginning. Even if one exported professors to the colonies, and even assuming they were willing to go, and the colonies willing to receive them, there would never be enough university jobs to employ all the graduates produced. Concurrent with the emergence of archaeology were efforts to institutionalise financial support. The Palestine Exploration Fund, for instance, was founded in 1865, and many other efforts followed. Ideally, successful fund-building would allow for long and frequent field seasons, but there were still gaps. It was to fill these gaps that archaeologists began to commercialise themselves and their activities.

Sir Flinders Petrie provided a model by holding for-profit exhibitions in the atmospheric Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, penning both scholarly monographs and books aimed at the public, and engaging general audiences with his lectures.  His student, Sir Leonard Wooley, followed in his footsteps. Wooley’s radio broadcasts tied in with annual British Museum exhibitions of his latest finds from Ur. Annual exhibitions? Who today could sustain that pace of excavation, publicisation, exhibition, and publication? This system encouraged hyperbole. Without any clear notion of the function of buildings, romantic names such as the “Castle of the Jew’s Daughter” were attached to them.

Once Thornton has given her readers a clear idea of how and why archaeologists had to sell themselves and their work, she focuses on three important publishers, John Murray, Macmillan & Co, and Penguin, both because of their importance to the field of archaeology, and because sufficient records exist for a detailed analysis.

Her book’s ultimate chapter (not counting the Epilogue) is devoted to archaeological fiction. There are various genres including archaeological romance, fantastical horror and archaeology, and archaeological crime. To this we might add spy adventure, occult fiction, and sci-fi. Thornton analyses several examples, including the now-obscure verse melodrama ‘Digger’s Fancy’ and the still-read Murder in Mesopotamia. I wish she had written more about archaeological fiction for children. I’m certain my own determination to become an archaeologist was inspired, in part, by novels like Caroline Dale Snedeker’s The Forgotten Daughter (1929) shaped by both the land reforms of Tiberius Gracchus and the Great Depression.

The book under review is the result of a post-doctoral project and, as one might imagine from such an origin, it is an astoundingly thorough treatment. It’s a good read, too, especially for those of us with a mind for detail. There are extensive source notes, and a dense bibliography, should readers wish to follow up on any of the points raised. Just when I started to lose track of the large cast of characters I discovered the helpful appendix, brief biographies of the major archaeologist-authors. Illustrations are mainly graphs plus photos of items in the author’s own collection. The latter give a sense of the aesthetics of publishing. I wish there were more. In some cases, the lack of an illustration risks a reader’s missing the point, as when Mary Chubb’s graphic Alphabet of Ancient Egypt is mentioned (p. 116).

Today publishing for the people involves on-line open-access, but who sponsors this, and for how long? Although this problem lacks a definitive resolution, Thornton has managed to make her book available for free on-line under Creative Commons. I’m grateful, but must note that the print version is handsome and I’m glad to have it in my personal library. I’ll be citing it often.






Winifred Lamb: Aegean Prehistorian and Museum Curator. David W. J. Gill

September 21, 2018

HARN Member, David Gill, has sent us the following information about his forthcoming book.

Lamb_cover (1)

Winifred Lamb was a pioneering archaeologist in Anatolia and the Aegean. She studied classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and subsequently served in naval intelligence alongside J. D. Beazley during the final stages of the First World War. As war drew to a close, Sydney Cockerell, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, invited Lamb to be the honorary keeper of Greek antiquities. Over the next 40 years she created a prehistoric gallery, marking the university’s contribution to excavations in the Aegean, and developed the museum’s holdings of classical bronzes and Athenian figure-decorated pottery. Lamb formed a parallel career excavating in the Aegean. She was admitted as a student of the British School at Athens and served as assistant director on the Mycenae excavations under Alan Wace and Carl Blegen. After further work at Sparta and on prehistoric mounds in Macedonia, Lamb identified and excavated a major Bronze Age site at Thermi on Lesbos. She conducted a brief excavation on Chios before directing a significant project at Kusura in Turkey. She was recruited for the Turkish language section of the BBC during the Second World War, and after the cessation of hostilities took an active part in the creation of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1 – The Lamb Family and Early Years
Chapter 2 – Cambridge and Classics
Chapter 3 – The Hope Vases and Naval Intelligence
Chapter 4 – The First Year in Athens (1920–21)
Chapter 5 – Prehistory and the Fitzwilliam Museum
Chapter 6 – Mycenae, Sparta and Macedonia 
Chapter 7 – The Fitzwilliam Museum: Developing the Classical Collections
Chapter 8 – The Eastern Aegean: Lesbos and Chios
Chapter 9 – Anatolia and Kusura
Chapter 10 – The War Years
Chapter 11 – The British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara

More information can be found here.

Julius Neubronner – the apothecary who didn’t invent drones.

September 14, 2018

As promised last week, a review by the wonderful Martyn Barber:

Review of The Pigeon Photographer, by Julius Neubronner & his pigeons, published 2017 by Rorhof (

The issue of animals taking photographs recently gained widespread attention via the story of the Indonesian crested macaque, Naruto, who grabbed the camera of British photographer David Slater and either accidentally photographed his own grinning face, or took the opportunity to offer satirical comment on our current selfie-obsessed generation. You decide.

Naruto and chums had apparently been taught to press the shutter on the camera when gawping and gurning into the lens. Meanwhile, Slater watched a live feed on his computer screen back home in the UK. “It wasn’t serendipitous monkey behaviour”, Slater was quoted as saying. “It required a lot of knowledge on my behalf, a lot of perseverance, sweat and anguish, and all that stuff.”

The first person to apply all that stuff to non-human photographers seems to have been Julius Neubronner (1851-1932), the son of a German apothecary who had for a while tried using carrier pigeons for despatching prescriptions and medicines. Apparently interested in tracking the movements of some pigeons who were a little slow to return home, Julius strapped a miniature camera to his bird’s chest and set it to take snapshots at pre-set intervals. In 1907, he submitted a (successful) patent application for the idea. His feathered photographers attracted attention in the press in the years prior to the First World War, and were particularly popular at fairs and expositions, where he would set them loose, the photographs taken during their flights being sold as postcards. There was also some very brief military interest, but more of that in a while.


Julius Neubronner, almost certainly posing for a photo taken by a human, c1914 (taken from Neubronner’s Wikipedia page)

Neubronner and his pigeons have always been something of a brief and amusing cul-de-sac in the history of aerial photography, particularly as his invention occurred at precisely the same time that more obvious airborne camera platforms were becoming available, and also because, well, people had already been experimenting with much more sensible ways of getting aerial photographs for sixty years. Perhaps because of that, there hasn’t been too much research into Neubronner’s peristeronic picture-takers (yes, I did find that via Google). Disappointingly, this new publication doesn’t really change matters on that front, but it does offer excellent quality reproductions of a reasonable number of those photographs.

For your 35 Euros* (plus p&p) you get not one but three items: a hardback book entitled ‘The Pigeon Photographers’, and credited to ‘Julius Neubronner & his pigeon photographers’; a small newspaper-like thing containing cuttings and extracts from newspapers and magazines; and a 32-page essay entitled ‘Dronifying Birds, Birdifying Drones’.


“OK – run those targets by me one more time” (from Slate’s photo blog thing)

The book contains 84 photographs. Disappointingly, that’s pretty much all it contains. There’s no discussion of the photos, no captions., no information about where or when any of them were taken or what we can see on them. Acknowledgement is given to the two archives that hold most of these photos, but this is in teeny-tiny grey (I’m guessing the publishers would claim it is silver) print on a black background**. There’s no detail about these archives. We’re not told what proportion of the total surviving images these 84 represent, or the selection process (although – I’m guessing again – the key factors were probably aesthetic). There is clearly more than one film format used – and presumably more than one type of camera – but again, no information is provided. The only text is a 130-word introduction (again, grey/silver on black, but a slightly larger font, so actually readable) that doesn’t tell you much more than what I’ve already told you. It does, however, offer the wildly erroneous claim that “his invention contributed to the development of aerial photography and can be considered the predecessor of today’s drones”.

The 48-page newspapery-thing reproduces numerous snippets about Neubronner and his pigeons. Most, if not all, of the cuttings belong to the period c1907 to, perhaps, the 1930s (I’m guessing yet again), and almost all are in English, so (still guessing) these are presumably not from German newspapers. None of the extracts are accompanied by information on where or when they were originally published.


Presumably this is Captain Birdseye-view? Lifted from here.

The 32-page pamphlet (fortunately they’ve opted for black type on a white background for this) contains the aforementioned illustrated essay ‘Dronifying Birds, Birdifying Drones’***, written by the artist Joan Fontcuberta. It offers Fontcuberta’s thoughts on a range of more-or-less connected matters, from the impact of the aerial (photographic) view on 20th century art and culture, to folklore, Game of Thrones, warfare, surveillance, automation, AI and, of course, drones. Weaving through and allegedly connecting these themes is Neubronner and his birds: “the fact that they were unmanned flying entities makes them the historical referent for today’s drones”, insists Fontcuberta. “With his invention of the protodrone Neubronner outlined the notion of automated photography”.

Except he didn’t, of course. “Unmanned flying entities” were hardly unheard of before 1907 (and, it should be pointed out, women didn’t fly in them either). The earliest attempts to dangle a camera from a kite occurred in the 1840s. Small, unpiloted balloons fitted with automated cameras were being played with by the late 1870s, with Henry Elsdale and Walter Woodbury among the key pioneers. The 1880s and 1890s saw an explosion in efforts to obtain aerial photographs without the need for an actual person to take to the skies, as well as in developments of both automated and miniature cameras. Neubronner’s sole innovation was to strap a small camera onto a homing pigeon.

The essay, and many of the newspaper cuttings, also play up the idea that the pigeons possessed some military value – that the German army in the years before and during World War One were seriously interested in the reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering potential of Neubronner’s birds. They were, but this interest was very very short-lived – not only were aeroplanes and tethered balloons (and, in particular, the people in them) rather more reliable photographers, but there were obvious shortcomings with using pigeons. For a start, in order to get them to fly over enemy lines on their way back home, you would first have to take them beyond those enemy lines. Also, as the images in the book make clear, their photography was pretty random. You can tell a pigeon over and over again what you actually want a photo of, but they just won’t listen. Believe it or not, they had no real understanding of what they were doing.


Feathers, forest, and more. Somewhere in Germany, sometime.

Anyway – I’d happily recommend the book of photographs. They are a fantastic and bizarre set of images, capturing rural landscapes, townscapes, country houses, parks, pigeon lofts and much more, from a variety of angles and altitudes, their aesthetic appeal – enhanced occasionally by lens distortion, variable focus, and visible wing-tips – outweighing the complete absence of meaningful information. But, writing as someone who has made use of even older aerial photographs, I suspect some at least will possess some value to the archaeologist or historian.

You can see a preview of the contents at the publisher’s website here. See also this article in The New Yorker for a brief summary of the book and some high-res versions of a few of the pigeon photos.

*When I bought my copy, 35 Euros was pretty good value to someone living in the British Isles. Less so now. I have a few unused Euros left if anyone wants to make me an offer.

**Anyone who still tries to read the booklets that come with CDs will be at an advantage here.

***The essay is reproduced in an English translation.