john vernon

john vernon

Geological Expedition to Western Iran Part 15

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Description

John Vernon Harrison, who made these films, was not an anthropologist, but a geologist. From 1938 he was a lecturer in geology at Oxford University, but he had spent the preceding decade as an exploration geologist. After the First World War he joined the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (later to become part of BP), and much of his work took him into Iran and Iraq. In 1930 he started a project to map the Zagros mountain range which extends from northwestern Iran southwards along the border with Iraq and spans the whole length of the western and southwestern Iranian plateau. Harrison was the leader on this project, which took several years to complete. During this time he made the films which are now in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s collection. As an exploration geologist, Harrison’s task was to survey the landscape and identify the geological structures. This is reflected in the films, which for the most part show the mountains, but they also contain footage of the geologists’ camp and of local people they encountered. The explorers travelled on foot with pack horses and mules, sometimes using camels. In the winter they mapped the lower foothills, while in the summer they moved up to higher ground. They lived in a constantly moving camp, for 10 or 11 months at a time. Much of the country they were surveying was previously unexplored, particularly the tribal country of the Bakhtiari and Qashqai people had not been seen by Westerners before. This makes the films the earliest ones to be taken in those areas.