Olga Tufnell’s “Perfect Journey”: Letters and photographs of an archaeologist in the Levant and Mediterranean

17 June 2021

Olga Tufnell’s “Perfect Journey”: Letters and photographs of an archaeologist in the Levant and Mediterranean

This lecture, in partnership with CBRL, PEF and UCL Press, provides an opportunity to summarize, share insights, and discuss the recently published volume: “Olga Tufnell’s ‘Perfect Journey’: Letters and photographs of an archaeologist in the Levant and Mediterranean”.

Olga Tufnell (1905–85) was a British archaeologist working in Egypt, Cyprus and Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s, a so-called golden age of archaeological discovery. Based largely on letters and photographs from the Olga Tufnell archive at the Palestine Exploration Fund, the book sheds light on personal experiences of travel and dig life at this extraordinary time.

The letters offer insights into the social and professional networks and history of archaeological research, particularly for Palestine under the British Mandate, including through excavations at Tell el Far’ah (South), Tell el-‘Ajjul and Tell ed-Duweir (ancient Lachish). They provide information about the role of foreign archaeologists, relationships with local workers and inhabitants, and the colonial frameworks they operated within during turbulent times.

Register for this event here.

The book can be downloaded or purchased on the UCL Press website.

About the speakers:

Jack Green, also known as John D.M. Green, is associate director of the American Center of Research, Amman, Jordan, where he is currently engaged in the Temple of the Winged Lions Publication project focused on this important Nabataean site in Petra. He is also focused on the Tell es-Sa’idiyeh Cemetery Publication Project at the British Museum, following his Ph.D thesis (UCL, 2006) on the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age cemetery at Tell es-Sa’idiyeh, Jordan.

Jack was Deputy Director of Collections, Research, and Exhibitions at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY (2016-17), Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago (2011-2015), and curator of Ancient Near East at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (2007 – 2011). His academic interests are in the archaeology, history, and art history of the ancient Middle East and East Mediterranean, museum studies, cultural heritage studies, histories of archaeology and museums.


Ros Henry assisted Olga Tufnell at the Institute of Archaeology with the publication of the Wellcome-Marston Expedition to Tell ed-Duweir (ancient Lachish) expedition and related material during the 1950s.

After Olga Tufnell’s death in 1985, Ros co-authored her obituaries and became involved with the Olga Tufnell archive after the collection of letters and photographs was donated to the Palestine Exploration Fund. She then embarked upon the task of collating, ordering, transcribing, and initial editing of the letters, beginning the process towards the publication of “Olga Tufnell’s ‘Perfect Journey.’” Ros has a MA degree in History from Trinity College Dublin, and lives in Warwickshire, England.


About the discussant:

Amara Thornton is a historian of archaeology and founder and Coordinator of the History of Archaeology Network at the UCL Institute of Archaeology.

Her first book Archaeologists in Print was published by UCL Press in 2018. With Katy Soar, she is co-editing an anthology of archaeology-themed short stories, Strange Relics, which will be published by Handheld Press in 2022.



About the chairs:

Felicity Cobbing is the Chief Executive and Curator at the Palestine Exploration Fund in London. She is an archaeologist whose interests include the development of archaeology in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Middle East, and the role that the PEF in particular played in that development. She has published numerous articles and has co-authored three books relating to the PEF’s work. She has excavated in Jordan and has travelled widely in the region.


Carol Palmer is the Director of CBRL, based in Amman. She is an anthropologist, environmental archaeologist and botanist. Her research interests concentrate on recording rural life in its many forms, the contemporary and recent use of plants on the broadest level, cultivated, gathered and grazed, and the effects of changes in food production practices on the landscape and in society. Please see here for more details. 


Webinar recordings

Watch the webinar on our YouTube channel or listen to the podcast.