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Collection MS.BZ.017 - Early Archaeological Projects Associated with Thomas Whittemore, 1910s-1930s
- 1910s-1930s (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Thomas Whittemore was born in Cambridgeport, MA on January 2, 1871. He received his Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Tufts College in 1894 and was appointed Instructor of English at his alma mater immediately afterwards. While at Tufts College, Whittemore taught English Composition and directed several plays, such as the masque Comus and The Pleasant Comedy of Old Fortunatus. His teaching career continued intermittently until early 1930. In 1908, Whittemore taught a course on Ancient Art at Columbia University and starting in 1927, he taught classes on the fine arts and the history of Greek, Egyptian, and Byzantine art at New York University.
In the 1910s and 1920s, Whittemore became involved in expeditions and excavation projects in Egypt and Bulgaria. In January 1911, Whittemore joined a British archaeological expedition in Egypt under the auspices of the Egypt Exploration Society [or Egypt Exploration Fund]. Based on the letters between Whittemore and Isabella Stewart Gardner, Whittemore was in Egypt in the 1910s, where he helped other archaeologists discover pre-dynastic treasures such as, kilns and “the long sought IV-V dynasty cemetery at Abydos.” In between excavation seasons, Whittemore devoted his time to humanitarian work in Bulgaria, Russia, and Paris, particularly during and after the Russian Revolution in 1917. He was an active member of the Committee for the Relief of War Refugees in Russia and the Society for Relief Work among the Orphan Children of Russia. “The goal of the organization[s were] to educate the most promising young Russians in the arts and sciences such that they could help rebuild their country.” Whittemore also travelled to Mount Athos, Greece, in 1923 with George D. Pratt, where he and Pratt delivered food and supplies to the Russian and Bulgarian monks that became impoverished after the Russian Revolution.
In the 1930s, Whittemore changed his direction and focused on the conservation and restoration of Byzantine monuments, art, and architecture in Turkey and other areas of the former Byzantine Empire. In 1930, he founded the Byzantine Institute, a non-profit organization, with the full support of several committee members, such as John Nicholas Brown, Charles R. Crane, Charles R. Morey, Matthew Prichard, George D. Pratt, John Shapley, and others. In 1931, Whittemore and the Byzantine Institute were given permission to conserve and restore the original mosaics of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey, by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, ?smet ?nönü, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Economy. As the Director of the Byzantine Institute, Whittemore carried out the negotiations with government officials in Turkey, obtained work permits, recruited skilled fieldworkers, organized fundraising events, managed the Byzantine Institute staff, and delivered fieldwork supplies from/to the various sites.
On June 8, 1950, Whittemore suffered a heart attack while on his way to a meeting in the office of John Foster Dulles, then special advisor to the Secretary of State, in Washington, D.C. He died at the age of 79 and is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.
Name of creator
"Alexandre Piankoff (Russian: Александр Николаевич Пьянков, Aleksandr Nikolayevich Pjankov, October 18, 1897 in Saint Petersburg - July 20, 1966 in Brussels) was a Russian archaeologist and Egyptologist. He is best known for religious texts in translation.
Alexandre Piankoff was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1897. He became interested in Egyptology at an early age when exploring the collections of Russian museums.
Before World War Piankoff studied literature, foreign languages, as well as the ancient Egyptian language. At the beginning of the war, he was forced to suspend his studies but went on them for a while after the war ended in Berlin. He moved in 1924 to Paris, where he studied at the University of Paris. In 1930, he graduated with a doctorate in philosophy.
After the Second World War began, Piankoff joined the French forces in 1940. Before long, he ended up in Cairo, which remained after the war to live. He worked with the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo, where he specialized in ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Coptic, Persian, Turkish, French, German, English and Russian languages.
Piankoff worked in Valley of the Kings Ramses V and Ramses VI's tomb, in which he documents the wall paintings and turned their texts. He investigated in 1958 in the tomb of Tutankhamun, the tomb of the texts. The most important part of the work took place soon Koff Theban necropolis, in which he interpreted as a number of ancient religious texts... Piankoff died in 1966 in Brussels, Belgium." (http://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandre_Piankoff)
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Based on notes in the former ICFA Curator’s files and correspondence from The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. late 1920s-2000s, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection received the first shipment of materials related to Thomas Whittemore’s fieldwork projects in January 1957. The boxes contained materials related to the Byzantine Institute’s fieldwork projects (e.g., cramp charts from Hagia Sophia, films, and negatives) and likely included additional materials related to Whittemore’s archaeological activities. This shipment also included specimens of mosaic cubes, glass paste, and Coptic textiles, which are currently stored in the Dumbarton Oaks Museum. After the transfer, the fieldwork materials may have been stored in Paul Underwood’s office, or what was informally known as the Byzantine Fieldwork Office. According to Charlotte Kroll, the Photograph Collection began to receive additional archival materials related to the early archeological expeditions in Egypt in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, it is not clear what types of items were received during that time.
It is possible that a portion of Whittemore’s early archaeological papers, particularly those relating to excavations at Amarna, Egypt, were once part of the Thomas Whittemore Papers. According to a note made in May 2001, Natalia Teteriatnikov removed papers concerning Amarna from the Whittemore papers and may have incorporated them into the Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks fieldwork collection. At that point, they may have been combined with other archival materials related to Whittemore’s early archaeological projects in Egypt and Bulgaria and attributed to the Byzantine Institute. However, due to the lack of documentation, it is difficult to determine the complete acquisition history for this collection.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
This collection contains papers, photographs, and drawings dating from the 1910s through the early 1930s that relate to excavation projects conducted in Egypt and Bulgaria. The materials include excavation reports, fieldwork and research notes, transcriptions from publications, translations of texts, citations, and correspondence, as well as rubbings, drawings, watercolor paintings, and photographs. While a portion of the collection reflects original observations made in the field, the majority of the archival materials consist of the research materials and pre-publication drafts created by Thomas Whittemore and his affiliates at the Byzantine Institute. Some of these materials were published decades after the fieldwork was completed - in some cases, posthumously following Whittemore’s death in 1950. Other materials were never published. However, based on the nature of the records and the resulting publications, one can assume that the research and editorial tasks were undertaken by Whittemore’s colleagues, with some degree of oversight by Whittemore himself. This is evidenced by the extant correspondence, as well as the notations and corrections in Whittemore’s hand among the documents. While authorship for individual documents cannot be fully determined in all cases, tentative identifications are given when supported by internal or external evidence.
Documents from the Egypt series record excavation projects that were conducted by the Egypt Exploration Society (EES; formerly, the Egypt Exploration Fund) at Abydos and Amarna in the 1910s and 1920s. These materials appear to be the collective papers produced by: Thomas Whittemore, who served as the American representative for EES in the 1910s and 1920s; Alexandre Piankoff, a Russian emigré Egyptologist who was associated with the Byzantine Institute in the 1920s and 1930s; and other individuals affiliated with the Egypt Exploration Society and the Byzantine Institute. This series consists of manuscripts and draft reports by various authors, transcriptions from scholarly publications, notes, and correspondence. There are also materials related to Whittemore’s interest in the Early Christian drawings and graffiti found at Abydos. Whittemore had planned to publish his findings on the subject, but it was Alexandre Piankoff who completed the publication in the 1950s based on the materials that Whittemore collected. Similarly, while Whittemore published a preliminary report regarding his Amarna fieldwork, the final publication was never completed and items in the collection remain unpublished. Photographs, rubbings, plans, drawings, and maps related to these fieldwork projects in Egypt may be found in Series 3 and 4.
Papers from the Bulgaria series document excavation projects and studies of art and architecture undertaken in Bulgaria during the early to mid-1920s. The items primarily highlight the architecture and decoration of the Basilica at Messemvria, the Red Church (Tchervena Tcherkva) at Peruštica, and the Basilica at Bělovo. These papers document fieldwork projects conducted by Ivan Velkov (or Velkoff) of the National Museum in Sofia and Sergěj Pokrovskij of the Archaeological Institute of Bulgaria, with the financial support of both Thomas Whittemore and the National Archaeological Museum in Sofia, Bulgaria. The results of these fieldwork projects were published in volumes 1 and 2 of The Bulletin of the Byzantine Institute, which were edited by André Grabar and Michel Malinine, respectively. The materials in this series may represent the pre-publication research conducted by Whittemore, the Bulgarian excavators, and Whittemore’s associates at the Byzantine Institute, notably Grabar and Anatole Frolow. Photographs of watercolor paintings and ground plans related to these fieldwork projects in Bulgaria may be found in Series 3.
The collection includes an Addendum, which contains research materials compiled by ICFA staff - see Notes field below.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
The collection is divided into 4 series and the contents are roughly arranged in chronological order by fieldwork project and medium. The dates listed for Series 1 and 2 are inclusive of the dates indicated on the items contained within the collection. Series 3 and 4, however, are arranged according to the official dates of each fieldwork project. For the official dates of each fieldwork project, please see ICFA’s “Notes on Egypt Exploration Society Excavations” and “Notes on Bulgarian Excavations” in the Addendum (see Notes field below).
Most of the materials are undated, but these items are presumed to have been created during and/or following the excavations. Within each group, folders with dated items are filed first, followed by undated materials within each site group. Undated items are subsequently organized by content type, with bibliographic or research materials preceding mock-ups intended for publication.
Conditions of access and use area
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Script of material
- Egyptian hieroglyphs
Language and script notes
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Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
At Dumbarton Oaks:
- The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. late 1920s-2000s, MS.BZ.004. Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives.
- Dumbarton Oaks Archives. http://www.doaks.org/library-archives/dumbarton-oaks-archives
- Thomas Whittemore Papers, ca. 1875-1966, MS.BZ.013. Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives.
At other institutions:
- Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries. New York, NY. http://library.columbia.edu/indiv/rbml/units/bakhmeteff.html.
- Byzantine Library. Collège De France. Paris, France. http://www.college-de-france.fr/site/en-libraries-archives/byzantine.htm.
- Isabella Stewart Gardner papers, 1760-1956. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C. http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/isabella-stewart-gardner-papers-8959.
- The Lucy Gura Archive. Egypt Exploration Society Archive, The Egypt Exploration Society. London, United Kingdom. http://www.ees.ac.uk/archive/LGarchive.html.
Frolow, Anatole. “L’Église Rouge de Peruštica.” The Bulletin of the Byzantine Institute 1 (1946): 15-42.
Frolow, Anatole. “L’Église Rouge de Peruštica: 2. Architecture et Date.” The Bulletin of the Byzantine Institute 2 (1946): 449-477.
Grabar, André. “Kondakov and the Treasure of Nagy-Szent-Miklos.” The Bulletin of the Byzantine Institute 1 (1946): 3-5.
Grabar, André and William Emerson. “The Basilica of Bělovo.” The Bulletin of the Byzantine Institute 1 (1946): 43-59.
Piankoff, Alexandre. “Thomas Whittemore: Une Peinture Datée au Monastère de Saint-Antoine.” Les Cahiers Coptes 7-8 (1954): 19–24.
Piankoff, Alexandre. “Les Peintures de la Petite Chapelle au Monastère de Saint Antoine.” Les Cahiers Coptes 12 (1956): 6-16.
Piankoff, Alexandre. “The Osireion of Seti I at Abydos During the Greco-Roman Period and the Christian Occupation.” Bulletin de la Société d’Archéologie Copte 15 (1958-1960): 125-149.
Piankoff, Alexandre, ed. The Pyramid of Unas. Bollingen Series, 40.5. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968.
Velkov, Ivan. “The Early Christian Basilica at Mesembria.” The Bulletin of the Byzantine Institute 1 (1946): 61-70.
Whittemore, Thomas. “Riddle of the Shrine of Osiris.” The Sun (August 2, 1914): section 4, 1-2.
Whittemore, Thomas. “The Ibis Cemetery at Abydos: 1914.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 1, 4 (October 1914): 248-249.
Whittemore, Thomas. “The Sawama Cemeteries.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 1, 4 (October 1914): 246-247.
Whittemore, Thomas. “A Statuettte of Akhenaten for America.” The Brooklyn Museum Quarterly 12, 2 (1925): 58-65.
Whittemore, Thomas. “The Excavations at El-‘Amarnah, Season 1924-25.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 12, 1/2 (April 1926): 3-12.
Whittemore, Thomas. “Foreword,” The Bulletin of the Byzantine Institute 1 (1946): 1-2.
- Folder 1: Administrative documents - finding aid, document/item removal forms
- Folder 2: Reference materials and resources related to the Egypt Exploration Society and Abydos, Egypt
- Folder 3: Reference materials and resources related to the Egypt Exploration Society and Amarna, Egypt
- Folder 4: Reference materials and resources related to the Bulgarian excavations and Alexandre Piankoff
Subject access points
Place access points
Name access points
- Whittemore, Thomas (Creator)
- Piankoff, Alexandre (Creator)
- Egypt Exploration Society (Creator)
- Grabar, André (Creator)
- Velkov, Ivan (Creator)
- Frolow, Anatole (Creator)
- Clark, H.B. (Creator)
- Ermoloff, Boris (Subject)
- Byzantine Institute, Inc. (Subject)
- Filov, Bogdan (Subject)
- National Institute of Archaeology with Museum - Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Subject)
- Pokrovskij, Sergěj (Subject)
- Naville, Édouard (Subject)
- Frankfort, Henri (Subject)
- Peet, T. Eric (Subject)
- Woolley, C. Leonard (Subject)
- Newton, Francis G. (Subject)
- Emery, Walter Bryan (Subject)
Description control area
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- Constable, Giles. “Dumbarton Oaks and Byzantine Fieldwork.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 37 (1983): 171-176.
- Daumas, François. “Alexandre Piankoff (1897-1966).” Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archaéologie Orientale 65 (1967): 227-230.
- Klein, Holger A. “The Elusive Mr. Whittemore: The Early Years 1871-1916 – Tarifi Zor Bay Whittemore: Erken Dönem, 1871-1916.” In Kariye Camii Yeniden - The Kariye Camii Reconsidered, edited by Holger A. Klein, Robert G. Ousterhout, and Brigitte Pitarakis, 451-480. Istanbul: Araştırmaları Enstitüsü, 2011.
- Labrusse, Rémi and Nadia Podzemskaia. “Naissance d'une vocation: aux sources de la carrière byzantine de Thomas Whittemore.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 54 (2000): 43-69.
- Maguire, William. Bollingen: An Adventure in Collecting the Past. Revised edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.
- Sorenson, Lee. “Whittemore, Thomas.” Dictionary of Art Historians. <http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/whittemoret.htm>.