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COLLECTION Identifier: MS.BZ.017

Early archaeological projects associated with Thomas Whittemore

Scope and Contents

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.


  • Creation: 1910s-1930s

Language of Materials

Arabic, Coptic, English, French, Arabic, Coptic, Cyrillic, Egyptian hieroglyphs

Conditions Governing Access

An appointment is required for access to these papers. To request an appointment, fill out the online form:

For research queries, contact the staff of Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (

Conditions Governing Use

Duplication of materials in the collection may be governed by copyright and other restrictions.


1 collection

Biographical Note

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.

Biographical Note

"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." (

Historical Note

The Egypt Exploration Society was founded in 1882, as the Egypt Exploration Fund, in order to explore, survey, and excavate at ancient sites in Egypt and Sudan, and to publish the results of this work. With headquarters in London and an office in Cairo, the Society continues to support archaeological research projects in Egypt. Among other publications, the Society publishes The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (JEA).

Biographical Note

André Grabar was an archaeologist and historian of Byzantine and medieval art, Grabar led excavations with Thomas Whittemore in Bulgaria.

Biographical Note

Ivan Velkov was a Bulgarian historian and archaeologist. "He graduated with a Ph.D. in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology from the University in Vienna in 1915. From 1919 to 1937 he was head of the Ancient Department at the Museum in Sofia. From 1938 to 1944 he was Director of the Museum. He worked primarily in the domain of the Thracian archaeology. He directed excavations of Thracian settlements, such as Duvanli, Mezek, Brezovo and Roman towns and fortresses. He studied and worked upon the archaeological map of Bulgaria and many Thracian fortresses in the Balkan and Rhodope Mountains." (

Biographical Note

Anatole Frolow was a Byzantine scholar affiliated with the Byzantine Institute.

Biographical Note

H.B. Clark was the architect for the Egypt Exploration Society excavations at Amarna, Egypt during the 1924-1925 and 1926-1927 seasons.


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.

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.

Archival history

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

This collection was previously incorporated within the collection The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. late 1920s-2000s. In September-October 2011, Shalimar White, Manager of ICFA, assessed the Egypt oversize drawings and discovered additional photographs and negatives in ICFA’s backlog and cold storage, which depicted the archaeological excavations conducted at Abydos and Amarna. Since these fieldwork projects were sponsored by the Egypt Exploration Society and the materials were created prior to the establishment of the Byzantine Institute in 1930, ICFA staff decided to remove the related archival materials from the fieldwork archive of the Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks. A new collection focusing on Whittemore’s early archaeological activities was created by combining these archival records with the related photographs and oversize materials.

Existence and location of copies

For digital copies of selected materials from the collection, see the online exhibit entitled "Before Byzantium: The Early Archaeological Activities of Thomas Whittemore (1871-1931),"

Related Units of Description at Dumbarton Oaks

Related Units of Description at other institutions

  1. Bakhmeteff Archive of Russian and East European Culture. Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries. New York, NY.
  2. Byzantine Library. Collège De France. Paris, France.
  3. Isabella Stewart Gardner papers, 1760-1956. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C.
  4. The Lucy Gura Archive. Egypt Exploration Society Archive, The Egypt Exploration Society. London, United Kingdom.


  • 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.

Reference List

  • 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.


Collection includes an Addendum, which includes research materials compiled by ICFA staff:

  1. Folder 1: Administrative documents - finding aid, document/item removal forms
  2. Folder 2: Reference materials and resources related to the Egypt Exploration Society and Abydos, Egypt
  3. Folder 3: Reference materials and resources related to the Egypt Exploration Society and Amarna, Egypt
  4. Folder 4: Reference materials and resources related to the Bulgarian excavations and Alexandre Piankoff

Processing Information

Similar to the processing information contained in The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. late 1920s-2000s, this collection was initially inventoried by Jeff Schlosberg. The collection was roughly organized in chronological order and then by location. Between the 1990s and 2000s, the collection was re-organized and re-processed by former ICFA staff and interns, including: Natalia Teteriatnikov, Gerrianne Schaad, and Rebecca Bruner. The collection was re-arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name and then by location. As the re-organization project had not been completed, Rona Razon, Archivist, and Laurian Douthett, former Archivist Assistant, began to evaluate the existing finding aids and collection arrangement in September 2010. After the assessment, the ICFA staff decided to re-organize the materials in sequential order by fieldwork project and location, in order to preserve the collection items’ initial manner of creation. As noted above under Acquisition Information, this collection was previously incorporated within the fieldwork archive of the Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks. In the summer of 2012, Caitlin Ballotta, former ICFA intern, assessed and revised the existing draft of the finding aid and the collection arrangement. Ballotta also revised the Historical Note; retitled folders to accurately reflect their contents; and arranged materials according to the new filing system, which was devised with the help of Razon and White. The new arrangement plan called for the creation of geographic divisions that reflect the different excavation sites documented within the collection. Items within each site group are arranged chronologically, when possible, and according to type, e.g. papers, photographs, and oversize rubbings and drawings. ICFA staff believe that this arrangement plan better reflects the fact that the materials in the collection were the result of fieldwork projects, but were primarily created during the research and pre-publication stages subsequent to the fieldwork.

Early archaeological projects associated with Thomas Whittemore, 1910s-1930s (MS.BZ.017): Finding Aid
Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Harvard University.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Dumbarton Oaks Repository

Dumbarton Oaks holds archival collections in its Rare Book Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. The collections include: the papers of noteworthy scholars in the three fields that Dumbarton Oaks supports (Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape); image collections depicting objects or sites of topical interest to scholars in the three fields; Beatrix Farrand’s personal archive of letters and original drawings that document the development of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden; and institutional records and architectural plans and drawings documenting the history of Dumbarton Oaks. For more information about hours and to make an appointment to consult any of the collections listed here, please fill out the request form:

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