Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Filming Antiquity

[First posted in AWOL 21 February 2017, updated 2 June 2020]

Filming Antiquity
Filming Antiquity is an interdisciplinary collaboration and digitisation project initially funded by a grant from the Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects (CHIRP) at University College London (UCL).  Between 2014 and 2016, Filming Antiquity digitised excavation films from the Harding archive held in the UCL Institute of Archaeology and continues to make these films accessible through this project website.  The project team members came from three different UCL departments: Archaeology, English and Information Studies.

The project had three main objectives: a) the digitisation of excavation films currently held in the UCL Institute of Archaeology (IoA), b) an interdisciplinary symposium with screenings of a sample of the digitised films and discussion and c) the construction of an online archive of these films and supporting materials.

The films we digitised feature excavations and local context in 1930s British Mandate Palestine.  The early 20th century saw radical developments in technologies of transmission and mass communication.  In this period archaeology gradually shifted from amateur to professional practice, as the first generations of trained archaeologists solidified their techniques in the field.  Supported by the industrialists and museums who funded their work, these archaeologists embraced moving image technology to record life and work on site.  These amateur productions were sometimes shown alongside public exhibitions of artefacts as cinematic proof of the spadework tackling the problems of ancient civilisations within a changing modern context.

The collection of these artefacts into an online archive will contribute to dialogues on information storage and knowledge production through digital resources.  Filming Antiquity provides a model for making excavation films accessible and inviting public discussions and interdisciplinary scholarship through online platforms.

Excavation Films Online

There are a growing number of organisations putting archive excavation films online.  Some of the footage we have been looking at in the context of Filming Antiquity is listed below. This list will be added to as new footage is put online.

Stonehenge Panorama (1900) - British Film Institute

A History of Pathe Baby films, and digitised Pathe Baby films, including travelogues and documentaries (not excavation, but some feature archaeological sites) - Princeton University Special Collections.

A Day at Jebel Moya: Part Three’ (1912-1913) – Wellcome Library
In two parts:  Part 1; Part 2.  For further details, see Angela Saward’s Filming Antiquity guest post.

'Luxor at Wembley' (1924) film on the reconstruction of Tutankhamun's tomb at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, London - British Pathe

Petrafilmen (1924) film of the ancient city of Petra, in Jordan -  via Danish Film Institute on European Film Gateway

Elinor Gardner's Excavations in Greece (1926) - British Film Institute

'Baskett-Lowke in Egypt' (c. 1927) - Huntley Film Archive

Excavation films from Tell en-Nesbeh (1926, 1935) - Bade Museum

‘Digging Into the Past: Egyptian Excavations of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’ (c. 1930) – Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  Read more about the history of the Met's educational "Cinema Films" here.

Tell el-Amarna (1930-33) in two parts: Part 1; Part 2 - Hilary Waddington for the Egypt Exploration Society. Further details can be found in our Media section.

Libyan Desert (1930) Ralph Alger Bagnold & friends explorations of the prehistoric landscape and art of the Sahara by car - British Film Institute

Excavations at Mount Carmel, filmed by archaeologist Dorothy Garrod, 1931 - Pitt Rivers Museum

Excavations at Nineveh, c. 1931-1933, thought to have been filmed by archaeologist Reginald Campbell Thompson – Royal Asiatic Society. Further information here and here.

‘The Human Adventure’ (1932-1936) – Charles Breasted & James Henry Breasted for the Oriental Institute, Chicago (with sound)

Early 20thC films relating to the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, listed at the Petra1929 website.

Biskupin Pomnik Historii (2014). Incorporates 1930s excavation footage of Iron Age settlement remains and excavation in Poland - English language version here. Polish language version here.

Newsreel footage of Mortimer Wheeler at Verulamium (St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK): ‘Roman Bathroom is Found At St Albans’; ‘Old Roman City Excavated Near St Albans’- British Movietone

Newsreel footage of excavations at Maiden Castle (Dorset, UK): "Picture Paragraphs in the Week's News: First Snapshot is digging at historic Maiden Castle site, which dates back to 4th Century B. C."- British Movietone

Sutton Hoo excavations, 1939 - British Museum.

Films in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, c. 1930s/1940s including travels to archaeological sites around the world, and episodes of 1950s CBS archaeology game show What in the World? (hosted on Internet Archive).

"Triumph Ovre Time" (1947) - Margaret Thompson (prod.); Oscar Broneer (dir.). More information here and here.

To Work’ (1950) – M. R. Apted for the Egypt Exploration Society.

"Archaeology Archives" - a collection of British Pathe newsreels featuring archaeology.

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