Cornell Expedition

The Cornell Expedition to Asia Minor and the Assyro-Babylonian Orient (1907-1908) was planned by John Robert Sitlington Sterrett, Professor and Chair of the then Department of Greek at Cornell. He had selected three recent Cornell alumni to lead it: Albert Ten Eyck Olmstead, Jesse E. Wrench, and Benson B. Charles. The main focus of the Expedition was on pre-classical history and archaeology and they made copies of numerous hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions (called Hittite inscriptions at the time), many newly discovered, which were published in 1911.

However, at the beginning of the Expedition, they spent two weeks securing a squeeze of the Res Gestae of the emperor Augustus as inscribed on the walls of the temple of Rome and Augustus in Ancyra (modern Ankara, Turkey), known as the Monumentum Ancyranum. They left a vivid account of their work:

Extract from the Journal of the Expedition [Wrench, Jesse E. (1882-1958), Papers. The State Historical Society of Missouri, folder 104, p. 20-21]

“The remainder of the party remained in Angora [modern Ankara] for over two weeks [between August 1 and August 17, 1907]. The main cause for this was the securing of a new squeeze of the famous Monumentum Ancyranum, the inscription in which Augustus gives an account of the main events of his reign. To be sure, a cast had already been secured by the Germans more than twenty years before [by Carl Humann and Andrea Janini in 1882], but this was not generally accessible and it was felt by scholars in America that advantage should be taken of our presence in Angora to secure a copy which should be available in America and form [sic] which it might be possible to make casts. The securing of the squeeze was a matter of time and difficulty. Nevertheless our work was materially lightened by the generous aid of the government officials, the governor of the province, the provincial interpreter Ferid Osman, a decided young Turk in his sympathies, and the officer of police who was our constant attendant. It was comparatively easy to secure the Latin inscription which is to be found on the inner side of the two antae of the temple. With the Greek translation, on the outer wall of the cella to the right, our troubles began, for practically all of this was covered by three modern houses. We were forced to proceed with caution for an indiscreet act in forcing entrance to private houses might have caused such an uproar that the governor would have been forced to order us to stop. The first house was occupied by an elderly lady who was with difficulty persuaded to permit us to enter and who constantly made trouble. The first section had been completely covered with whitewash and this must be taken off. Then a wall must be cut through and the moving of the supporting beams required a carpenter who thereafter was in our regular employ. We now began to be troubled by the wax which had been left behind by the Germans in making their cast. To judge by the way in which whole letters had been so filled up that we were forced to clean them out before the squeeze would take any impression at all, the German copy must be defective in places. The owner of the next house was out of town and it was therefore decided to pass this over for the time being and to work at the third house which was at present unoccupied though the keys were fortunately in the possession of the khatîb [person who delivers the sermon] of the adjoining mosque [the fifteenth-century Mosque of Hacı Bayram Veli]. Our main difficulty here was the destroying of a large fireplace behind which the inscription lay. We were now ready for the last house into which we proceeded to break with all due formality of law, accompanied by several officials, and aided by a reformed burglar who now was the official house breaker of the province, at least so we were told. Our only difficulty here was the fact that it was necessary to do our work in the complete darkness of a stable and on a single slippery plank about ten feet above the ground. The work had taken ten days of actual time and over five hundred sheets of squeeze paper. The squeezes have now been deposited in the Museum of Cornell University [now in the Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections Archives #8435].”