Monday, April 29, 2013

Helen Jacquet-Gordon, 7 February 1918 - 26 April 2013

Chicago House Director Ray Johnson's Obituary of Helen Jacquet-Gordon

Helen Jacquet-Gordon in Nubia, Abu Simbel, in front of the stela of Sete I. Photograph by Jean Jacquet, February 1960. Photographic Archives, Chicago House, Luxor. 

 Helen Jacquet-Gordon at Arminna West, March 1961. Photographic Archives, Chicago House, Luxor.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Helen Jacquet-Gordon, 95, at her home in Carouge, Switzerland, on April 26th.  The loss to Egyptology is profound. Helen was a true Renaissance woman who specialized in ancient Egyptian ceramics but was proficient in the language, epigraphy, art, history, and archaeology of ancient Egypt and the Sudan, and was herself an accomplished artist (and musician).  She is survived by her husband, archaeological architect Jean Jaccquet.  


Born on February 7, 1918 in New York, Helen came to Egypt in 1955 for the purpose of completing her thesis for the École des Hautes Études at the Sorbonne.  In 1956 Helen met her life partner Jean Jacquet on the excavations of the University of Pennsylvania at Mit Rahina. For the next 50 years work and pleasure took them all over the Middle East, where they participated in a variety of historic archaeological expeditions: in Egypt and Nubia during the construction of the Aswan High Dam, (“the Nubian Salvage Campaign” from 1957 to 1965); in Lebanon at Tyre (1964 to 1968); and at Tabo in the Dongola province of the northern Sudan (1967-1977). Their main undertaking was in Upper Egypt at North-Karnak, an 18th dynasty site (the Treasury of Thutmosis I) situated just north of the great temple complex.  There they conducted excavations from 1968 to 1977 and 1989 to 1992 under the auspices of the Institut français d'archéologie orientale du Caire (IFAO).  While working at Karnak they lived in Alexander Varille's historic mud-brick house perched on top of the Karnak northern enclosure wall overlooking the temple of Ptah.    


From 1997 until 2007 they resided with the team of the Epigraphic Survey at Chicago House (Oriental Institute, University of Chicago) in Luxor where they continued to work on publications and consult with the Survey.  There Helen finished and published her groundbreaking The Graffiti on the Khonsu Temple Roof at Karnak: A Manifestation of Personal Piety, OIP 123 (Chicago 2003), the third volume in the Epigraphic Survey's Khonsu Temple series.  She and Jean consulted with the Chicago House team on many aspects of the Survey’s work at Luxor Temple and Medinet Habu, and it was a real joy to have them with us for that decade.


Their photographic archive contains more than 7,400 images (6x6 and 35 mm) of which the greater part is devoted to the architecture, archaeology and epigraphy of the ancient Near East. In 2008, Helen and Jean donated these archives to the library of Chicago House in Luxor, where they form the Jacquet Archive in the Chicago House Photographic Archives.


Helen was an inspiration to all who knew her, and she raised the bar high. 95 years old, yet she published a major pottery double-volume (Karnak-Nord X) just last year, and her book on Tabo is in press now at the IFAO in Cairo.  She truly was one of the greats of Egyptology, and will be terribly missed.  


Helen’s funeral will be on Thursday, May 2nd.  Condolences may be sent to:


Jean Jacquet,

6, Place d’Armes,

1227 Carouge,



Ray Johnson, director, Epigraphic Survey, Chicago House

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Half Century of Oriental Institute Annual Reports

This week the Oriental Institute Publications office posted the Annual Reports for 1960-1969 and 1970-1979.

You can find the entry for the full set here in AWOL. There reports present documentation of more than a half century of work by the scholars and projects at the Oriental Institute - quite an achievement.

It was nineteen years ago this month, in April 1994, that the Institute launched the first version of its website. The 1991-1992, and 1992-1993 Annual Reports formed the core of that original site.  From the History of the Website:
Development of the OI WWW database was a collaboration between John Sanders, Head of the Oriental Institute Computer Laboratory, and Charles Jones, Oriental Institute Research Archivist. We had a single objective in creating this database: to have information about the Oriental Institute reach a world-wide audience through the medium of electronic publication; to make available descriptions and publications of the projects in ancient Near Eastern archaeology and philology by the faculty and staff of the Oriental Institute and its various units, the Oriental Institute Museum, and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC), the University of Chicago.

The OI WWW database originally contained electronic versions of three Institute publications.
The part of the database entitled “Highlights from the Collection” contains registration and descriptive information along with digital images for 65 artifacts from the Oriental Institute Museum. These artifacts represent a cross-section of the cultural regions and historical periods contained in the museum’s entire collection.
 How far it has come since then!  Imagine running a server with 20MB of RAM, and a 250 MB hard drive.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Martyl Langsdorf and the Precinct of Mut

In 1987 the artist Martyl Langsdorf exhibited some paintings at the Oriental Institute in an exhibit entitled "Site Drawings by Martyl: The Precinct of Mut at Luxor" based on her experiences as a member of the Brooklyn Museum team on a season of excavation at the Precinct of Mut in Luxor.

From the  1986-1987 Annual Report, acting curator Raymond D. Tindel reports:
The second of these exhibits, "Site Drawings by Martyl:
The Precinct of Mut at Luxor," June I-July 26, 1987, presented
the work of the prominent Chicago artist Martyl.
She had been invited by The Brooklyn Museum to record
her impressions of their excavations at the Mut Temple,
and this experience inspired the works on display. The exhibit
was celebrated with an opening reception and an intimate
dinner in the galleries for supporters. We are
pleased to express our appreciation to The Brooklyn Museum
for having organized the exhibition, and to Allied
Signal Engineered Materials Research Center, AT&T, Illinois
Bell, William Drake, the Institute of Museum Services,
Kraft, Inc., and Diane Legge Lohan for their local sponsorship
of the exhibition. We especially want to thank the
Playboy Foundation for their assistance in producing the
poster for this exhibition.
 There was also a review of the exhibit in Saudi Aramco World, September/October 1988

Two recent articles (here, and here) in the Chicago Reader, and one in in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (here), discuss her career, and make particular note of the fact that she designed the famed "Doomsday Clock:, the icon of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
To complete the circle of connections, Ruth Adams, wife of former faculty member Robert McC. Adams, former secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, former Faculty member and Director of the Oriental Institute, and Provost of the University of Chicago, was editor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists from 1961 to 1968 and from 1978 to 1983.

Martyl Langsdorfs original Doomsday Clock design.
  • Martyl Langsdorf's original Doomsday Clock design.