Clarence S. Fisher Memphis Expedition records
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives [Contact Us]3260 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104-6324
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Clarence S. Fisher was born in Philadelphia in 1876 and attended the University of Pennsylvania, attaining a degree in architecture in 1897 but devoting his entire life to archaeology. His first archaeology field experience was as the architect for the initial Babylonian expedition to Nippur from 1898 to 1900. This was followed by a research fellowship in Babylonian archaeology at the University Museum. Fisher also worked as an assistant to Harvard Archaeologist, George Andrew Reisner in Egypt and Samaria. From Reisner, Fisher learned archaeological techniques and the methods of meticulous record keeping he would use in his later work.
Fisher was appointed a curator of the Egyptian section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum by George B. Gordon in 1914. He spent the next nine years in the field collecting data in Dendereh, Giza, Memphis, and Dra Abu el-Naga. Memphis, now called Mit Rahineh, was the capital city of Egypt during the Old Kingdom (2625 to 2130 B.C.). It remained an important administrative and religious center throughout Egyptian history. Fisher worked at Memphis for eight years, from 1915 to 1923. He discovered the palace of Merenptah, the successor to Ramses II clearing both the palace and the associated urban area including a temple precinct dedicated to Memphite creator god, Ptah. Much of the material excavated, including substantial portions of the palace, is in the University of Pennsylvania Museum.
Fisher received an Honorary ScD. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1924, in recognition of his discoveries. Unfortunately, Fisher preferred discovery to publication and his only contribution to the literature was a report on a minor cemetery in Giza in 1924.
Fisher's love of field work made his presence at the Museum infrequent and an argument with George Byron Gordon regarding Fisher's choice of an assistant resulted in his resignation from the Museum in 1925. Fisher then traveled to Jerusalem where he served as Professor of Archaeology at the American School of Oriental Research.
Fisher worked tirelessly, often at two sites at the same time, affecting his health. During his work at Memphis, Fisher also worked at the Giza and Dendereh sites. In addition to his own excavations, Fisher served as scientific advisor for the first year of the Elihu Grant Beth Shemesh expedition sponsored by Haverford College in 1928.
Fisher was known for his war efforts, working in Egypt on behalf of Near East Relief during World War I and as a representative of the Lutheran Church of America and the YMCA during the early stages of World War II in Europe. In 1939, Fisher was the moving spirit in founding the Dar el-Awlad Home for Children. He was also a member of the Directorate of the German(Schneller)Orphanage during WWII.
Clarence S. Fisher died in Jerusalem in 1941, while serving as the Administrative Director of the American School of Oriental Research. He is buried at the Protestant Cemetery on Mt. Zion. Much of Fisher's data was recovered later but never published.
Clarence S. Fisher was born in Philadelphia in 1876 and attended the University of Pennsylvania, attaining a degree in architecture in 1897 but devoting his entire life to archaeology. His first archaeology field experience was as the architect for the initial Babylonian expedition to Nippur from 1898 to 1900. This was followed by a research fellowship in Babylonian archaeology at the University Museum. Fisher also gained experience as an assistant to Harvard Archaeologist, George Andrew Reisner in Egypt and Samaria. From Reisner, Fisher learned archaeological techniques and the methods of meticulous record keeping he would use in his later work.
Fisher was appointed a curator of the Egyptian section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum by George B. Gordon in 1914. He spent the next nine years in the field collecting data at Dendereh, Giza, Memphis, and Dra Abu el-Naga. Memphis, now called Mit Rahineh, was the capital city of Egypt during the Old Kingdom (2625 to 2130 B.C.). It remained an important administrative and religious center throughout Egyptian history. Fisher worked at Memphis for eight years, from 1915 to 1923. He discovered the palace of Merenptah, the successor to Ramses II. He cleared both the palace and the associated urban area including a temple precinct dedicated to Memphite creator god, Ptah. Much of the material excavated, including substantial portions of the palace, is in the University of Pennsylvania Museum.
Clarence S. Fisher Memphis expedition records consist of six archival boxes of correspondence, diaries, notebooks, notecards, plans and drawings, catalogues and inventories and photographs related to his excavation in the ancient city of Memphis, now Mit Rahineh. An additional card file box and many oversize items complete the collection. Fisher had placed most of the material in easily discerned groupings that became the series for organizing the collection. The original order is maintained. This collection contains notes on some very small cards and pieces of paper. They have been placed in photo envelopes whenever possible. There are some condition issues related to notes in pencil that have faded with dirt and fragile paper. One large notebook is missing a back cover and spine with resulting loose pages. There are a few letters among the correspondence that are in French.
The Correspondence series is in four folders. Fisher communicates with Dr. George B. Gordon, Director of the Penn Museum and Eckley B. Coxe, Museum President and primary source of funding for the Egyptian expeditions. Additional letters are to G. Daressy the Director General of the Antiquities Service in Egypt. In addition to communication with Gordon and Coxe, there are letters to Dr. Reisner and Dr. Farrabee and two "Statements of Account", one from 1917 and one from 1918. Several telegrams are with this group and a single "Employee Record" for Mahmoud Yousif sent to Dr. Gordon. Of interest are communications regarding the permit to excavate in Memphis and a hand-drawn map of the area around the Temple of Ptah showing the camp.
There are six diaries in the series. The front cover of the first diary is off and the back cover and spine of the book are missing. The 250 pages are loose. The diary is hand-written and details everyday activities, excavation finds and information. There are drawings and lists. The second diary is also hand-written and unbound. Most of this material is excavation-related and there are many drawings in this diary. It is 130 pages long. There are also typed copies of the 1915 and 1919 diaries. The later diaries are type-written and contain photographs.
The Notebooks series contains bound pages of transit, level and inscription notes. Many of the pages are blank and some of the books are undated. A small notebook labeled as "Book II" by Fisher and dated 1917 is about half-full with drawings of inscriptions and room locations.
Notecards in the series include three-by-five reference cards written by Fisher with text and drawings on Memphis. Because of their size, they were placed in two photo envelopes. The survey cards are six-by-eight inches in size. They are mostly dated from 1923 and contain diagrams of the site with notations. Two diagrams, on fragile paper, are with the notecards and labeled "Theodolite Survey" by Fisher. Two photograph envelopes are devoted to the finds cards. The cards are consecutive but not every number is represented in each series. The field cards, also placed in envelopes, describe and diagram the rooms and their contents.
Box five of the collection, holding field cards, is a smaller file box of six by eight inch cards with dividers of heavy blue paper. There are three sections of data. The first section contains drawings of findings by location while the next portion of the file divides the objects by composition. The third section has notes on Memphis that are typed and from other sources.
The palace notecards are six-by-eight inch and from the fort area, rooms one to twenty of Merenptah's palace and other areas of the palace. Some cards contain object drawings and some diagrams of areas of the palace.
The Plans and drawings series contains a mixture of small and larger drawings. The first group are inscriptions with translations and preceeded by by a title page, "Notes on color details." Various rooms and features of specific rooms are pictured including windows, jambs and doors. Some of these are in fragile condition. A group designated as "Miscellaneous" include unlabeled plans and drawings plus some palace-related drawings that do not clearly fit with another group. There are three small drawings and a "door list" in a photo envelope. Also present are several pages of hand-written notes which translate the inscriptions on the "south wall", "east wall-south panel", "north wall", and "west wall-The Triumphal Song of Merenptah." These may have been prepared for the palace reconstruction in 1926.
The Object notes series holds descriptions and lists of objects along with the object register book. There are descriptions and drawings with this data. Many notes are two-sided and some deal with: the "Shield of Bast", the "Crown of Upper Egypt" and the "Crown of Lower Egypt." There are several pages of notes relating to molds for beads. Some of the notes, especially those on figurines, are in catalogue format and include field numbers and inscriptions. A soft-cover notebook is labeled "Object Register Mit Rahineh." However, it appears to be a combination of negative lists, object drawings and plans. Except for the covers, it is in fragile condition.
The materials in the Catalogue and inventories series remain in the original order. There are ripped, faded and fragile notes with this group. The size of the paper varies to some extent. Much of the data follows the same format; one object per page, the museum number, material, dimensions, provenance and description. The stelae catalogue contains information on numbers 2572 to 2771, 2772 to 4742, and a group numbered from 1688 to 4696, but not in chronological order.
The series devoted to Pottery drawings has twenty-five drawings in pen and ink on heavy graph paper. The items are numbered and there are some descriptions.
The Photograph series begins with hand-written lists on very fragile paper labeled as "rough lists of field negatives." One list is on the back of an envelope. The lists are dated 1915, 1916 and 1917 and represent "C" negatives. The "A" series register is hand-written on heavy paper and organized with headings such as number, site, description, looking, date, made by, and size. The majority of the photographs are from Memphis but there are a few also from Fisher's Giza expedition and date from 1915 to 1920. The Giza photos are clearly designated. The photo register of "A" and "C" series pictures is a photocopy of the list from Fisher's expeditions in Dra Abu el-Naga and Dendereh with the Memphis photographs clearly designated.
The photographs are held in two separate boxes numbered 245 and 246. The pictures combine location and museum shots. Many are mounted and have additional data such as the field number, date and negative number. The smaller, unmounted prints have been placed in photograph envelopes. Many of the photographs are of the palace excavation, stone sculpture, architectural elements, pottery and vessels. Some prints detail the reconstruction of the palace inside the museum. Object photographs are with the group including amulets, coins, scarabs, jewelry and figurines. With the photographs labeled as "miscellaneous" are five small field photos, questionably labeled as from 1909 and 1912. There is a page from Fisher's diary photographed perhaps for an exhibit and dated June 10, 1916.
The Clarence S. Fisher Memphis expedition produced a great deal of oversize material stored in the map case. The first group of forty-eight items are depictions of areas of the palace or features in the palace rooms. There are a few depictions of objects, findings and wall paintings with this group. The artists identified include Clarence S. Fisher, W.G. Kemp and A. Yousef. Pencil, crayon, ink and watercolor media are represented.
Two groups of oversize financial records are stored in the map case. The first are payroll and account sheets from 1914-1915 and 1918. In the second group are seventeen budget statements from the expedition at Memphis.
The oversize maps and plans are organized by the media used. The first group are maps in pencil on graph paper. There are four maps, one unspecified, dating from 1919. Sixteen additional maps and plans executed with ink on graph paper date from 1919 to 1924. The twenty-one plans include work in several media; pencil and ink, ink, watercolor and crayon.
Three Memphis watercolors are with the oversize data, one by A. Yousef. Thirteen copies of inscriptions in ink on graph paper some bearing the cartouche of Rameses II are found in the map case.
The final group of oversize materials, drawings, include two by Mary Louise Baker; "Drawing of a Wall Frieze Showing Merneptah Vanquishing Foes" and a copy of "Inscription on Granite Sphinx from Memphis." The third drawing is an ink on paper depiction of a window in Merneptah's palace adjoining the Throne room.
- Coxe, Eckley B., 1839-1895
- Fisher, Clarence Stanley, 1876-1941
- Gordon, G. B. (George Byron), 1870-1927
- University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Jody Rodgers
- Finding Aid Date
- August, 2011