Institute of Archaeology


Filming Antiquity

Filming Antiquity proposes to digitise and contextualise excavation footage currently held in the Institute of Archaeology. Dating to the early-mid 20th century, the footage features excavations and local context in British Mandate Palestine. The footage featured will be examined as material evidence of past practice in both archaeology and film, situating their creation within a wider social, cultural and technological context. The archaeological focus of the films will be married with larger questions about British culture and identity and the myriad relationships between archaeologists and local communities.

Filming Antiquity will have four main outcomes:

  • Conservation and Digitisation of Film
  • Interdisciplinary Symposium
  • Pilot online archive
  • Publication of peer-reviewed papers analysing the available footage

The film footage and related analyses will be collected into an online archive. In the process, Filming Antiquity will provide a model for making excavation films accessible, contribute to best practice in digital archive creation, and invite public discussions and interdisciplinary scholarship through its online platform.

The project is related to the Institute's History of Archaeology Research Network.


Filming Antiquity: reels of Lankester Harding

Related outputs

  • Thornton, A. 2015. Our Man in Transjordan? Ancient Near East Today 3 (7). 
  • Thornton, A. 2016. GL Harding presents: Digging in Palestine Archaeology on Film. British Archaeology (July/Aug) pp 38-43.


  • Filming Antiquity: Moving Images of 1930s Excavations - 23 September 2016, 5.30-7.30pm. A talk by Amara Thornton (UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Michael McCluskey (UCL English) and film screening at the Society of Antiquaries of London.
  • Digital Curation - 22 March 2016, 5.15-6.15pmA talk by Jenny Bunn (UCL Information Studies), discussing the complexities of looking after digital material.
  • Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire - 23 February 2016, 6-7pm. A talk by Lee Grieveson (UCL Film Studies, Dept of English) looking at the Colonial Film project, which collates and contextualises film footage from across the British Empire of the early-mid 20th century.
  • Excavating the City: Reginald Campell Thompson's Moving Images of Mosul - 26 January 2016, 6.30-9pm. A talk by Amara Thornton (UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Michael McCluskey (UCL English) and film screening at the Royal Asiatic Society.
  • Ghostly and Ghastly Antiquarian Fiction - 8 December 2015, 6-7pm. A talk by Gabriel Moshenska (UCL Institute of Archaeology) as part of the project's seminar series on 'Excavations, Exhibitions, Archives'.
  • Local Production: Amateur Film and Interwar Britain - 3 November 2015, 6-7pm. A talk by Michael McCluskey (UCL English) looking at instances of local production through amateur films made throughout the interwar period.
  • Flying to the Past - 26 September 2015, 1-4.30pm. Join Amara Thornton (UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Michael McCluskey (UCL English) from Filming Antiquity, and Lindsay Allen (King's College London) for an exploration into archaeology, travel and empires past.  The afternoon will include a screening of American archaeologist Charles Breasted's 1935 film "The Human Adventure", featuring the voyage to and excavations of ancient Persepolis in modern Iran.  alks from each speaker will complement the footage.  A tour of Croydon Airport itself will start the afternoon off. The event is FREE but places must be reserved on Eventbrite.
  • Excavating Egypt in the 1930s: Film Screening and Discussion - 20 November 2014