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January 12, 2014

thomaswhittemoreThe American archaeologist, Thomas Whittemore

In a previous article, I reproduced old photographs of the Red Sea monasteries of Saints Anthony and Paul by the Thomas Whittemore’s expedition, of the American Byzantine Institute[1], in the winters of 1930-1931. Thomas Whittemore (1871–1950), the American archaeologist and founder of the Byzantine Institute was leading the expedition, which included, also, the architect Oliver Barker, the artist Netchetailor, the Armenian photographer Kazazian and Professor Piankoff.

I am glad that the reproduction of the vintage photographs was received well by my readers. Now, I am going to put up[2] a rare silent film taken of Saint Paul’s Monastery at the Red Sea, Egypt, during the first winter visit in 1930. It may be the earliest film ever of a Coptic monastery. I guess it was made by the Armenian photographer Kazazian, who was a member of the expedition. The film, wrongly labelled as of Saint Antony’s Monastery, shows the walls, gardens, daily life of the monks that ranges from making food, grounding coffee, praying, providing hospitality to Arabs of the desert, and undertaking routine agricultural work in the monastery farm and palm grove. There is a panoramic view of the eastern mountains and the monastery walls. Wittemore appears twice, riding camel with others, including a monk, and, at the end, with the abbot of the monastery.

Here is the film:

[1] Now located in the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, in Washington, DC.

[2] Courtesy of Dumbarton Oaks

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