Contexts and Connections: Exploring Petra in 1929

10 January 2019 16:00 to 17:00

BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London





CBRL is delighted to be partnering with the Palestinian Exploration Society for this lecture. 

In the spring of 1929, an important new phase began in Petra research.  The Melchett Expedition arrived on site to begin the first intensive excavations of this important ancient city.  Expedition members George Horsfield, Agnes Conway, Ditlef Nielsen and Tawfiq Canaan examined the history of Petra from many angles, recording the results of their researches over the two-month season in a type-written "Petra Exploration Fund" diary.  This document, now in the archives of the Institute of Archaeology, gives us unparalleled access to explore the historical contexts and connections of the Melchett Expedition.  A new project, funded by a CBRL Centenary Award, will present a digital transcription of the 1929 Petra diary, allowing users to explore the document in an interactive way, and reveal some of the hidden histories from the Horsfield Petra archive. This lecture will explore some of these histories, setting them into wider social, political and cultural contexts.

2019 is the 90th anniversary of the Melchett Expedition's work at Petra. What better time to re-assess the diary and the importance of excavation archives for understanding the rich modern histories of archaeological sites?

About the speaker: Dr Amara Thornton is an Honorary Research Associate at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. She was awarded a CBRL Centenary Grant for a digital project to transcribe and contextualise the "Petra Exploration Fund" diary, which is part of a significant collection of material held at the Institute relating to George Horsfield and Agnes Conway Horsfield's work in archaeology in Transjordan in the early 20th century. She was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow 2013-16, and has recently published her first book, Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People (2018, UCL Press), based on her postdoctoral research.  Amara is founder and coordinator of the Institute's History of Archaeology Network, and Principal Investigator of the Filming Antiquity project, researching historic archaeology footage. She blogs on her research at

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