Ernest Chantre in the Caucasus

Ossetian from Koban

In the 1880s, when Dmitry Ermakov, the photo chronicler of the Caucasus walked with a mule convoy over the remote mountain valleys to take thousands of photos on their inhabitants living in archaic conditions, another photo expedition passed through the Caucasus, too.

Armenian wine merchant from around Tiflis

Ernest Chantre, the director of the museum of Lyon had geology and archaeology as his main subjects. He was primarily interested in the relics of the transition from the neolithic period to metal-working, and as contemporary European scholarship considered the Caucasus as the cradle of metal-working, he intended to organize an expedition there. Together with three of his colleagues he started from Beirut in the spring of 1881, passed through Syria and Anatolia to Tiflis, and from there to the Northern Ossetian Koban, where they excavated a unique Bronze Age necropolis. His research pointed it out that the metal-working of the Caucasus, however archaic blacksmith techniques it has preserved until now, was only one of the mediators of Iranian metalwork towards Europe.

While passing through the Kurdish mountains, Armenian Anatolia and the Caucasus, Chantre’s attention gradually turned to anthropology, of which he would later become a renowned representative. Therefore the expedition’s photographer, Captain Maximilien Émile Barry devoted special attention to the inhabitants of the various regions, and a large part of the six-volume photo album published on the journey would be filled with their double photos.

Little boy and old man from Armenian bourgeois families in Tiflis

The ethnographic map of the Caucasus, based partly on the researches of E. Chantre, 1887

For the sake of comparison with the pictures of Ermakov, here we only publish the photos of the sixth volume, taken during the last, Caucasian section of the journey. Also because these photos are similar to those of Ermakov not only in their themes. Many of them are his very photos, such as the ones below representing the princesses of Swaneti or the Khevsur warriors, which we have already seen in Ermakov’s photo album. This is no wonder, since the map of Chantre clearly shows that they did not went to a number of archaic Georgian valleys from where they nevertheless publish photos. Probably they purchased them in Tiflis, from the same twenty-five thousand strong photo stock advertised in Ermakov’s catalogue, just as the already mentioned George Kennan did in the 1870s, who then used them for illustrations of his travelogues without reference to the photographer. We can thus assume that Chantre’s Caucasian photo album contains a number of hitherto unknown Ermakov photos, too. This is how the oeuvre of this forgotten but extraordinary photographer gradually comes to light, before the museum of Tbilisi decides to publish the ten thousands of photos of his unknown legacy, preserved by them.

Princesses from the Dadeshkeliani dynasty ruling Swaneti between 1720 and 1857

Khevsurs (warriors from the former northeastern Georgian kingdom of Khevsuri)

Armenian cradle

Wine container from the Georgian Kakheti

2 comentarios:

MOCKBA dijo...

Khevsuri, literally the canyon-dwellers from Georgian Khevi "gorge, canyon", weren't a kingdom or any feudal entity for that matter. Their social organization, to an extent, paralleled the Hungarian Szekely and other militarized border-settlers. The Khevsuri were free tax-exempt commoners.

Most of Upper Svanetia consisted of a confederation of communities of free commoners as well (also known as United Khevi); the Dadeshkeliani family ruled only a minor enclave downriver, although they continuously and unsuccessfully jostled for power with their commoner neighbors upriver, as well as with the Dadiani rulers of a large and more prosperous Lower Svanetia. Although the Dadeshkeliani domain lost independence in the 1850s, the family still ruled their lands until 1920s, when the victorious up-valley highlanders from the community of Zhabeshi symbolically demolished the Dadeshkeliani castle.

SR dijo...

Beautiful ethnographic map, all the more interesting for the absence of any modern border, notably the turkish-kurdish-armenian puzzle in the South.
A striking aspect of the XIX century anthropological photography is its connection with forensic anthropometry — one front-view, one side-view — which ended in divinding humanity into various races, whence all those books about "The Races of Europe" or "of the World" which flourished during the first half of the XX century. None the less, Ermakov photos are wondrous.