Following John and Hilda Pendlebury’s footsteps in Crete

My 2nd trip to Crete was with the British School at Athens’ Archivist (Amalia Kakissis) and the School’s current Early Career Fellow (Roderick Bailey). We stayed at the British School in Knossos, and together with staff from Knossos followed Pendlebury’s footsteps in Crete. Well…we selected which footsteps to follow as we only had a few days. Over the 14 years that John Pendlebury spent time in Crete he (often accompanied by his wife Hilda) travelled the length and breadth of the island, probably more than once.

Landscape near Karphi, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

Whilst visiting Crete, we took the opportunity to recreate some of the photographs in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. You can see some of our efforts in this blog post.

Taverna, British School in Knossos:


First we explored the archaeological site at Knossos where John was curator from 1929 to 1934.

South Propylaeum, Knossos Palace, 1933 (PEN 7/2/5/320). Copyright: BSA
Throne Room, Knossos Palace (May 1928) in a photograph album in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive (PEN 7/2/4/127). Copyright: British School at Athens
Pithos, Knossos Palace, Feb 1928 (PEN 7/2/4/37). Copyright: The British School at Athens
Inscribed stone, Knossos Palace, May 1928 (PEN 7/2/4/128). Copyright: The British School at Athens
John Pendlebury and Rosaleen Angus on the Royal Road, Knossos Palace, Mar-Jun 1933 (PEN 7/2/5/245). Copyright: British School at Athens

Around the Lasithi Plain we visited the sites of Karphi and the Trapeza Cave which John excavated under the BSA in 1936 and 1938, and Tzermiado village (where the excavation team was based).

Approaching Karphi, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens
Karphi (peak) – the settlement is just over the ridge on the right, between the Karphi and Koprana peaks. From a photograph album in the Pendlebury Archive (PEN 7/2/6/549), 24 May 1936. Copyright: British School at Athens

Views from Karphi:


Trapeza Cave:

View from entrance to Trapeza Cave, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens
Trapeza Cave, before excavation. May-Jun 1936 (PEN 7/2/6/517). Copyright: British School at Athens
Trapeza Cave after excavation, May-Jun 1936 (PEN 7/2/6). Copyright: British School at Athens

Dig-house, Tzermiado:

Excavation house in Tzermiado, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

We visited Archanes and the Ideon Cave (birthplace of Zeus) on Mount Ida. These were both places that John and Hilda Pendlebury had been to.

Church in the centre of Archanes, April 2016. Copyright: British School at Athens

The Ideon Cave and views from the cave:


Entrance to Ideon Cave, May 1932 (PEN 7/2/4/405). Copyright: British School at Athens

We also spent some time in Heraklion and I visited the archaeological museum. This is an excellent museum and I really enjoyed seeing finds from Pendlebury’s excavations at the Trapeza Cave and Karphi. For example, I had seen many photographs of a monkey seal in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive. Travelling to Crete not only gave me the opportunity to see the cave where it was found (Trapeza), but to see the object on display and have it explained within a wider context. Now that I have seen the excavation sites and finds first hand, cataloguing the excavation records will be all the more enjoyable.

Workers by the Vitzelovrysis Spring near Karphi, 1939. John Pendlebury commissioned the stone surround for the spring. with the lettering designed by Eric Gill. Photograph in the John Pendlebury Family Papers Archive (PEN 7/2/6). Copyright: British School at Athens
Vitzelovrysi Spring, April 2016. Recreating the original photograph. Copyright: British School at Athens

The first month of the project

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My work space for the next few months – the Map Room in the British School at Athens Library

The first month of work on the Pendlebury Archive Project can be summed up as reading, looking, checking, drafting and discussing.

I began by reading through the previous catalogue of the Pendlebury Family Papers, a file about the collection, biographical information about John, and – just for fun – ISAD(G). For non-archive people, ISAD(G) is the General International Standard for Archival Description and outlines data elements to be included in archival descriptions so that they can be shared across different platforms. Though I already knew the principles of ISAD(G) which underlie all archival description software, it’s always helpful to have a refresher.

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Notes made on the existing structure of the Pendlebury Family Papers

After absorbing this information I looked over the previous catalogue with a critical eye. I assessed whether this structure made sense, or whether the collection should be reorganised. I settled on a combination. For example, the correspondence section will be restructured. Previously it was divided into “John”, “Hilda”, “John’s parents” etc. These sections had a mixture of items sent and received by John, Hilda or John’s parents. I think it makes more sense to divide the letters into who had received them, as this will reflect their provenance more clearly.

Whilst working on a proposed structure for the collection I checked files and volumes in the archive. I needed to look at items first-hand rather than relying on previous descriptions. The previous catalogue was also necessarily vague in areas (as there had been only 2 weeks to complete it) so I needed to check folders with titles such as “miscellaneous letters”.

A box of negative albums in the Pendlebury Family Papers
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Checking negative index books against albums of negatives


There was also material in other related collections to check, and some of this will be added into the John Pendlebury Family Papers. This includes items such as notebooks from the British School’s Excavation Records which are in John’s handwriting. There are also other records of excavations within the John Pendlebury Family Papers which are impossible to extract, so it is best to keep these all together.

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Comparing Hilda Pendlebury’s unpublished and published accounts of travelling in Crete with John

I drafted a structure for the catalogue then discussed this with Amalia Kakissis (the Archivist here at the British School). After some more drafting, discussing and redrafting I finally have a plan to work to.

Next… I will be looking at the cataloguing software and beginning to catalogue the correspondence section.