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History Turns Space into Place: A French Voyage to the Dead Sea Basin in 1864
August 18, 2020

In 1864, French humanist and collector Honoré d’Albert, duc de Luynes (1802– 1867) spearheaded a scientific exploratory mission from Beirut, Lebanon, to Petra, Jordan, with the professional expertise of photographer Louis Vignes (1831–1896), geologist Louis Lartet (1840–1899), and naturalist Gustave Combe (1832– 1905). The team surveyed the basin of the Dead Sea, researching historical sites associated with the biblical stories (including the ancient “cursed” cities) and the basin’s geological features. A year later, de Luynes financed the photographic campaign of Henri Sauvaire (1831–1896) to Hebron, West Bank, and the crusade castles of Karak and Shubak, Jordan. Accompanied by an archive of photographs, drawings, and maps, and recorded as a compilation of travelogues in Voyage d’exploration à la mer Morte, à Petra, et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain (Paris, 1874), the mission documents a French approach to investigating the historical roots of Christianity in Palestine and encounters with the local inhabitants in the waning decades of the Ottoman Empire. Created shortly before the establishment of the Palestine Exploration Fund, the photographs of living cities – Nablus, Jenin, and Hebron – and of natural landscapes by the Dead Sea, along with the geological maps and the travelers’ texts, may contribute unique historical sources in the context of Yazid Anani’s Cities Exhibition project.

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