Baalbec magic lantern slides

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…. and the answer to the caption competition in the last post is “Does my bum look big in this?”

I notice in the news that as ISIS is being pushed out of parts of Syria, ancient sites are now being revisited to assess the damage done. This reminded me of magic lantern slides of Baalbec, which is now in Lebanon.

This might seem like a rather dry subject but hopefully you’ll agree that it isn’t. The first image is a photographic magic lantern slide made in the 1880s. It’s from a series of slides on the same subject made by a professional photographer for re-sale. So, the interest in ancient archeology was such, one hundred and thirty years ago, that it was worth a British company sending a photographer thousands of miles to capture these images, to make into glass projection slides to be sold commercially. I think this demonstrates the Victorians’ thirst for knowledge.

You’ll notice the huge stone in this photo with one man in front of it and another sitting on top. It’s the largest known, hand-cut stone block anywhere on the planet. Perhaps the project it was destined for was abandoned, so it was left where it was quarried or maybe the architect who commissioned it hadn’t thought about how they were going to move it once it was finished! Given the tools and technology available at the time, you have to ask ‘how did they do that?’

The second image is an earlier slide of Baalbec, probably from the 1860s. At this time, all magic lantern slides were hand painted (and thus expensive to produce and buy) and this is, therefore, an artist’s impression of the actual scene. Again, the fact that there was a market for this topic, shows the level of awareness of ancient sites and the interest in them.

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Victorian photographic slides of locations like these are a remarkable resource for modern archeologists, as they contain high resolution, pin sharp images. Most though, probably aren’t aware of their existence.

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