Viza: Ploughing, from mummery play

Department Archive
Collection SPHS BSA Image Collection
Reference No. BSA SPHS 01/2224.5827
Level Item
Description Film negative, an original, approximately half plate size.
Dimensions 14.5 x 9 cm
Place Vize
Dates 1906
Creator Dawkins, Mr Richard McGillivray
Collection event Thrace: Carnival Folklore 1905-1906
Scope and Content R.M. Dawkins at Carnival in the town of Viza in Thrace in the spring of 1906. Many of the images from his time there record a particular festival in which a masquerade is performed during the course of several days. The original description in the SPHS negative register reads: "Ploughing (J.H.S. xxvi. P.201 fig. 8). Mummery play at Viza".
Notes Dates to the time Dawkins was in Viza to observe Carnival (R.M. Dawkins 1906. "The Modern Carnival in Thrace and the Cult of Dionysus" Journal of Hellenic Studies 26: 191-206). The illustration in the article is a drawing based on this photograph.
Further information Scenes from Modern Greek Life
Historic images often show scenes from modern life. These are not modern in the current sense, but reflect a time they were taken. Some were captured unintentionally, recording an aspect of contemporary activity while composing scenes of other interest such as ancient or historical monuments. However, many were taken with the express purpose of recording folk life, part of a trend in the latter part of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The process of categorizing these ethnographic scenes of everyday life in image collections reflected contemporary folklore categories: material life (eg. domestic architecture, dress, craft and agricultural production), social life (eg. games, festivals) and spiritual life (eg. superstitions, religious activities).

However, a significant idea encapsulated in these ethnographic images was the 19th-century concept of continuity - relics or survivals - of ancient social life and practices in the present. In Greece, this concept of continuity was notably promoted by the scholar of folklore (laographia), Nikolaos Politis, and held by many British classicists and archaeologists of the time. In fact, the Irish classical scholar, J.P. Mahaffy encapsulated this idea in his 1876 travel book, Rambles and Studies in Greece: "Everywhere the modern Greek town is a mere survival of the old". These survivals were often linked to classical literature, cult and myth by scholars of the Greek world.


It is clear that these images are not simply quaint historical scenes, but they embody principles inherent in the discipline of Hellenic Studies in the recent past.

Reference 1906. JHS 26: 201, fig. 8. Link to article
1909 JHS 29: 5th accession to 1904 slide catalogue. lxxx.SPHS 5827. Link to article
1913 JHS 33: Catalogue of Slides. 33.SPHS 5827. Link to article