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From the Archives

In 1924, Francis Kelsey set out to excavate several ancient sites, with the goal of selecting one that would be productive for long-term excavation. Although the site of Karanis, Egypt, was ultimately chosen, another candidate had been Antioch of Pisidia, in Turkey.

The Antioch excavation season lasted from May to August 1924 under the direction of Professor David M. Robinson. One of the most interesting aspects of this expedition is the archival documentation, which remains in the Kelsey’s collections. Because relatively few artifacts from the excavation returned to the Museum, the scrupulously recorded diary entries and many photographs assume greater importance for researchers and scholars.

The Antioch archive has provided an excellent tool for working with graduate students from the School of Information, each of whom must complete a directed field experience. The Antioch material serves as a manageable portion of an archive in which the questions and problems of use can be devised and tested before moving on to larger archive projects.

The photograph below and the accompanying diary entry from the Antioch Journal of Excavations depict the lighter side of excavating in Turkey in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Picture dated May 4 depicts private Ottoman Railway train car, staff, and Michigan expedition members. Kelsey Museum Archives KR 2.6.

May 5, 1924: Our party proceeded by train leaving at 7:00 a.m. through beautiful mountain scenery to Egerdir, arriving there at 8:00 p.m. At dinner the train was supposed to stop for an hour from three to four p.m. The time was spent in looking at ancient inscriptions in the town. The conductor of the train accompanied Mr. Robinson who got interested in a new inscription. The conductor told him that there was plenty of time and that the train could not go until he returned, but the station master dispatched the train without the conductor and Mr. Robinson. It was the time of the Bairam festival and it was very difficult to get an araba, but after four hours an araba was procured. Meanwhile the time had been profitably employed by Mr. Robinson in hunting up inscriptions at this ancient site of Apamea. Several new important and unpublished texts were discovered. Mr. Robinson and the conductor of the train proceeded in a wild night ride to Getschi-Borlu. We lost our way just as we were nearing the town and finally arrived at 2:30 a.m. and had dinner with the station master at 3:00 a.m.

—Robin Meador-Woodruff