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College of Arts and Sciences

Professor publishes book on ancient city of Palmyra

By: Agnes Shin
A&S Communications
October 28, 2016

This October, Benjamin Anderson, assistant professor in history of art, published his new book “PALMYRA 1885: The Wolfe Expedition and the Photographs of John Henry Haynes” with colleague Robert Ousterhout, professor in history of art at the University of Pennsylvania.

“PALMYRA 1885” follows Ousterhout’s 2011 book “John Henry Haynes: A Photographer and Archaeologist in the Ottoman Empire 1881-1900,” now issued in a revised edition.

The co-authored volume features 80 never-before-published images of Palmyra captured by John Henry Haynes, an archaeological photographer who was a member of the Wolfe Expedition.

That expedition, which journeyed across the Ottoman Empire to Mesopotamia, caught sight of Palmyra while returning home in 1885, giving Haynes the opportunity to capture the cultural center’s majestic temples, tombs and colonnades.

"Haynes's photographs, taken long before Palmyra became a tourist destination, are priceless records of the relationship between a small Syrian community and the remains of the ancient city,” Anderson said. “Many of the views are unexpectedly intimate: for example we see women doing the wash beneath the enclosure of the Temple of Bel, or the expedition settling down for lunch beside the Temple of Baalshamin."

The book is the first published record of Haynes’ time spent in the ancient city, and the images included were digitized by Anderson in a project funded by the 2015 Arts & Sciences Grants Program for Digital Collections.

Anderson, who joined the Department of History of Art and Visual Studies in 2012, studies the visual and material cultures of the eastern Mediterranean and adjacent landmasses, focusing on late antique and Byzantine art, architecture, and visual culture. In the past, he has published research on local interpreters of antiquities in the Ottoman Empire and public clocks in late antique and early medieval Constantinople, among other topics. Anderson’s monograph "Cosmos and Community in Early Medieval Art" will be published by Yale University Press in Spring 2017.

At Cornell, he teaches courses such as Art of Late Antiquity (ARTH 3226/6266), Introduction to Methods (ARTH 3101/6101), Introduction to Art History: Medieval Art (ARTH 2355) and Medieval Cosmologies: Text, Image, and Music (ARTH 4352/6352).