Jacobsthal’s Dissertation

by Francesca Anthony

Over the last few weeks of volunteering in the Institute of Archaeology’s Archive, I have been attempting to sort the 1908 dissertation of the scholar Paul Jacobsthal. Jacobsthal came to Oxford in the mid 1930s after the Nazi regime legislated to bar Jewish people from public offices, which included university professorships. He is well known for his comprehensive work Early Celtic Art, one of only four books published by Oxford University Press in 1944. His fascinating story has been disentangled from his archive, which was found in the Institute in 2009, by Sally Crawford and Katrina Ulmschneider and is featured in their forthcoming book Ark of Civilisation: Refugee Scholars and Oxford University, 1930-1945. Before Jacobsthal became a prestigious Celtic specialist he started his academic career as a Classical Archaeologist. His dissertation, completed at the University of Bonn under the supervision of Georg Loeschcke, is entitled ‘Archaeological Studies in the Pediments of Grave Monuments’.

The dissertation was discovered in the depths of the Institute as a disordered brown box of original drawings with annotations, pages of rough notes, large photo boards and the bound handwritten dissertation. My first job was to clean the material, which was unfortunately covered in a thick black dust reminiscent of Victorian London smog. I had never previously attempted to clean paper or photographic records. This was done by gently using an archival dry cleaner, rather like soft putty, to pick up the dust, avoiding removing any of Jacobsthal’s pencil annotations. As the dust was lifted, the quality of some of the photos became evident, with the inscriptions clear. These photos are important as it is not known if the grave monuments have been eroded over time, or are even still extant.

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The battered box housing Jacobsthal’s dissertation in its cleaned state

It quickly became apparent that there was sense to the chaos in the box. Annotations reveal that the hand-drawn inscriptions and stelae were from Thebes and Tanagra, perhaps made by eye from the ancient sites themselves. Many of these drawings had codes that referred directly to the figure list within the dissertation, and the photographs on the large boards. The folder pages and boards show architectural elements, predominantly focusing on the pediments and inscriptions of these grave monuments. Many were ornately carved and Jacobsthal seems especially interested in those with floral and vegetation motifs, such as lotus flowers and vines. Only two of the images had the addition of colour, in red and blue, perhaps as an experiment for the drawings used in the dissertation figure list.

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One of the photo boards showing Jacobsthal’s figures. These beautiful photographs show grave monuments in situ in Tanagra.

p1080134p1080135Details of Jacobsthal’s photographs

I was especially interested in the limited pieces of correspondence with Jacobsthal, as an insight into the scholarly community at that time, and the transmission of academic information across countries; Jacobsthal was communicating with a director of a French museum, for example.

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A page of correspondence between Jacobsthal and F. Hiller von Gaertringen.

Most striking of all in the box was a number of pages of mathematical proofs. These extremely complicated calculations were likely made by Jacobsthal’s brother, Ernst Jacobsthal. This is quite extraordinary. Ernst was a famous German mathematician credited with inventing the ‘Jacobsthal numbers’, a specific integer sequence, which like the Fibonnaci numbers was a type of Lucas sequence.

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Although the foundation of Ernst’s work had been laid by his own dissertation in 1906, these pages might represent some of his earliest thinking, perhaps unpublished. I think this really exemplifies the joy of archives: you can never be sure what sort of material will emerge, and how significant it may be for understanding the developments of any number of academic disciplines and the lives of remarkable people.

Jacobsthal’s writing is difficult to decipher (and in German), so my engagement with the dissertation was limited to an organizational and visual capacity. I managed to work out thematic patterns from the material, but was sadly unable to read all of Jacobsthal’s annotations, which must surely provide an interesting insight into how the man thought and developed his own work. Some of the rough sketches are beautiful and indicate real artistic talent. It was also interesting to consider the process of writing a dissertation in the early 20th century, which must be vastly different to my experience using computer technology.

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One of the annotated sketches found in the box of Jacobsthal’s dissertation

I urge anyone who has an interest in Greek epigraphy, or Jacobsthal himself, to come look at the dissertation!

Francesca Anthony
Mst in Classical Archaeology
Brasenose College, Oxford

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News from a volunteer

 

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Several years ago, when we were just beginning work on the archives at the Institute of Archaeology, we were lucky enough to have the volunteer help of Marissa Kings. Marissa was invaluable, working tirelessly to put some of the more chaotic papers into some kind of order. Many researchers who have spent time in the archives have benefitted from her work.

Since moving on from Oxford, Marissa has trained as an archivist and recently got in touch to say she has taken up a post working on a project with the Biodiversity Heritage Library in California. Given that it is cold, dank, and trying to snow here in Oxford, this seems like an enviable move in so many ways. She writes:

I’ll be at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles for the next year researching digital library best practices and possibly how to introduce a crowdsourcing component to the museum’s library and archives.

We look forward to updates from Marissa about her work and will be keeping an eye on the BHL blog!

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What’s happening in the archive?

new-rolling-stacksWell, it’s been busy round here. The new rolling stacks have made a big difference to life in the archive. At last the archives are beginning to be more accessible. Thank you, School of Archaeology!

Before the stacks went in, everything that used to be in the basement space had to be cleared out, which led to some interesting new discoveries…

jaquetta-bosIt isn’t too attractive at first sight, but someone had written ‘Jacquetta Hawkes? Portugal?’ on the side, so we started taking everything out of the box and found some treasures, including:
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These objects were collected during Jacquetta Hawkes’ trip to Portugal in 1950. We’ve set an undergraduate volunteer onto the task of cataloguing the material and finding out more about it.

There was also evidence of the building’s previous incarnation as home to the Department for the History of Art…library-instructionsUseful advice on how to handle albums. On the subject of albums, new acquisitions  include a set of books and papers..

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The scrapbook belonged to the Reverend Greville John Chester, and the photographs inside appear to come from the Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem in 1864-5, by James McDonald:

jerusalem It’s going to be interesting researching the collection: we’ll be adding the photographs to the HEIR on-line database.

We’ve also been busy with archive visitors, including one who also brought some material for us to look at relating to the Stuart Piggott archive. Piggott wrote some notes about archaeology on a sheet of scrap paper torn in half. Inevitably, we found ourselves more interested in the ‘wrong’ side of the paper, which is a reminder that Piggott was not going to let the small detail of the Second World War and his army enlistment get in the way of research. We suspect Piggott was responsible for the sketch…

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Man in the White Hat

Over the past two weeks we have enjoyed the company of Alice Jaspars, a second year undergraduate who followed up excavation in Cyprus over the summer with a fieldwork placement in the archive, finding out more about the history of archaeology there, and in particular delving into the life of Oxford archaeologist John Myres. She writes:

John Linton Myres (1869–1954) (not to be mistaken with his son of an almost identical name) is a man of countless stories, many of which I have been able to acquaint myself with over the past 2 weeks during my work experience in The School of Archaeology’s Archaeological Archives. Some of these anecdotes beg belief, with a personal favourite of mine recounting how Myres, having caught malaria in Cyprus, ended up on a boat sailing to France with nothing but the clothes on his back and a tin of slightly rancid condensed milk. If I have learnt anything from reading Myres’ autobiography and examining his slides, it is that in his life what goes right goes very right, and that everything else makes a stunning story.

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“Levk : bases from N E”: Excavations at Levkoniko by Myres, Menelaos Markides and L. H. D. Buxton 1913. HEIR ID 42196

Myres is perhaps the closest one can come to Oxford personified having spent over 60 years of his life there. His Undergraduate years spent at Hertford College allowed him to make lifelong connections and friendships with the great and the good of his day, as well as creating opportunities for him to excavate. It is during his time at Oxford that Myres was given a £30 grant from the aptly named Cyprus Exploration Fund, to use as he chose within the parameters of a Cypriot Excavation. It is thus Myres was able to become the ‘Father of Cypriot Archaeology’ and alongside German archaeologist Max Ohnefalsch-Richter, he both excavated and wrote up the ‘Catalogue of the Cyprus Museum’. The seasons in which Myres was excavating in Cyprus allowed him to lay out the groundwork for all future Anglo-Cypriot excavations to be based upon.

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Myres in his white hat: HEIR ID 34428

Myres’ white hat preceded him in most situations, and rightly so. It was this which he was encouraged to wear to differentiate himself from all other excavators and to prevent himself from being targeted by bandits. His Norfolk jacket with its 15 pockets also gained a reputation as being part of his digging attire and further contributed towards Myres’ archaeological reputation.

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By looking through Myres’ slides in the archives and reading his words I have been able to expand my knowledge of Cypriot Archaeology and the way in which individuals fit into a greater academic and social network. The life of John L Myres demonstrates the way in which one individual can have countless different identities, and he himself was far more than simply the man in the white hat.

Alice Jaspars  September 2016

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Accessing a new collection: initial thoughts

Posted by Ellen Higgs

‘On Wednesday 22nd June 2016, a small uncatalogued archive of Martin William Frederiksen’s collection of 35mm slides, photographs and negatives was transferred from Worcester College, Oxford to the Institute of Archaeology.

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Martin William Frederiksen was in international scholar, attending and teaching at various institutions across the world. He was born in Sumatra in 1930 and grew up in Canberra, before studying history at first the University of Sydney in 1957 and then Balliol College, Oxford in 1954, as a Scholar in Classical Studies and as Craven Fellow. He then attended the British School at Rome, retaining strong links with both the school and Italy throughout his lifetime. After becoming PS Allen Junior Research Fellow and obtaining a Masters from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1960 Frederiksen became a fellow and tutor in Ancient History at Worcester College. Unfortunately Frederiksen was killed whilst crossing an Oxford road in July 1980, causing a great loss to classical scholarship both in England and Italy.

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Frederiksen’s archive contains 1,183 35mm slides that he had collected or taken throughout his career as well as a number of photographs and negatives of all shapes and sizes. Both media mainly portray the Roman archaeological sites that he visited or was interested in.

From my first look into our newly acquired collection, the majority of the archive itself appears to be in a reasonable condition, with the exception of a few of the slides with a fetching pink tinge as the cyan and yellow dyes have faded. I have, however, encountered challenges with the containers that a number of the slides are housed. Within the collection are two leather slide cases with red interiors that, fortunately for the slides inside, managed to escape the mould that has encroached on the exterior. We had noted that this archive did seem to smell and now we have found and dealt with the source.

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Although some of the collection consists of original images taken by Frederiksen, a large number are duplicates which he purchased throughout his career. Frederiksen’s archive includes what appear to be photographs by Fratelli Alinari. Alinari, being established in 1852, is the oldest photographic company in the world and is still active today. The presence of one particular Alinari image within Frederiksen’s collection is particularly interesting due to an image of the Casa di Pansa in Pompeii: a very similar view has already been uploaded onto the Historic Environment Image Resource.

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HEIR image ID 44489

Through comparing the two images we have been able to find that Frederiksen’s Alinari image from Pompeii pre-dates the view of the Casa di Pansa we have already uploaded, illustrating the changes that have occurred over time. This therefore shows the relevance and usefulness of even duplicated images within the archive.

some-of-the-alinari-photos

The fact that a large portion of Frederiksen’s collection is not his original work then poses the question: is this archive still relevant? Aside from the potential of the images in understanding how landscapes have changed over time (as part of the HEIR project) it is of interest to us as an assemblage – a purposeful collection of objects and images illustrating Frederiksen’s scholarship, locating his ideas in time, space and material cultural context.

So, what now? Due to the archives’ current home in cardboard boxes and mouldy slide cases, my next job is to clean and re-house the 35mm slide collection into the appropriate archival boxes and find the best way to store the wide size range of photographs. This will not only make it much easier when it comes to cataloguing the contents of the archive, in order to make the archive more accessible, and help to prevent any further damage to Frederiksen’s archive, but will enable us to have a better understanding of what exactly we have acquired and what we can learn from the collection.’

About Ellen

Ellen has been volunteering in the archive for several years while studying for her BA in English and History at Oxford Brookes University. She will soon be beginning a postgraduate course in archives…

 

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