Peters, John P. (John Punnett), 1852-1921

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Epithet: archaeologist

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000243.0x0000c4

In 1887, the University of Pennsylvania agreed to sponsor an expedition to the Near East. The idea was conceived by Reverend John Punnett Peters, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Hebrew and already a fund-raiser for William Hayes Ward of New York who made a site survey in Babylonia in 1885. Peters raised interest among Philadelphia donors for an excavation project. Contributors to the Babylonian Exploration Fund eventually included Charles C. Harrison, the banker Edward W. Clark and his brother Clarence H. Clark, William West Frazier, Joseph D. Potts, Henry Charles Lea and William Pepper.

In January of 1889, the expedition party directed by Peters arrived in Nippur. Nippur was a pre-Biblical city-state located in the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. British archaeologists had done some preliminary work in the 1850s; Ward's report on the site during his 1885 survey indicated promising archaeological resources. Two members of the 1885 investigation joined the Museum party: John Henry Haynes, photographer and business manager, and Daniel Z. Noorian, interpreter and work foreman. Other members of the 1889 team included Herman Volrath Hilprecht, newly appointed Professor of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania, Perez Hastings Field, architect and engineer, and Robert Francis Harper of Yale, co-Assyriologist with Hilprecht. The first campaign ended in the spring of that year, due to difficulties from climatic conditions, sickness, and violent attacks by local inhabitants.

The excavations resumed in 1890, again from 1893 to 1896 and finally from 1898 to 1900. A fifth expedition was proposed but never realized. A rich tablet collection, a Sumerian temple, and city walls were excavated. Because Peters left the University, Haynes and Hilprecht took over as leaders after 1893. Unfortunately, a scholarly controversy arose over Hilprecht's acquisition and interpretation of the tablets, culminating in his resignation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1910. The museum did resume excavations in the 1940's jointly with the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and turned its rights to the site over to them in 1949.

Leon Legrain, Curator of the Babylonian Section from 1920 to 1948, organized the documents relating to Nippur in 1926. In a little less than a month, he numbered all the documents concerning the excavation and prepared a catalog describing each item. In 1978, a doctoral student from the University of Chicago, Diane Taylor, assembled all the Nippur documents, finding not only Legrain's original material, but adding papers collected from the estates of J. H. Haynes and others. She arranged the papers by expedition and thereunder by Legrain number. For convenience, the papers are now arranged chronologically with cross-references to the Legrain number. Items acquired by Diane Taylor, often duplicates, have been interfiled with the original material, but are identifiable because they carry no red Legrain number. For further details on Taylor's work, please refer to her notes in the Near East finding aid file.

From the guide to the Nippur, Iraq expedition records, Bulk, 1888-1900, 1881-1900, (University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Committee of Fourteen (New York, N.Y. : 1905). Committee of Fourteen records, 1905-1932. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Boas, Ernst Phillip, 1891-1955. Papers, 1907-1980. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Hilprecht, Hermann Vollrat, 1859-1925. Papers 1899 - 1942 1904 - 1910. University of Pennsylvania, Archives & Records Center
creatorOf Peters, John P. (John Punnett), 1852-1921. Correspondence to Henry Charles Lea, 1888. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Farnam family papers, 1721-2002 (inclusive), 1850-1937 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Dodge, Henry Nehemiah, 1843-1937. Papers, 1857-1962 (inclusive), 1857-1936 (bulk). Harvard University, Divinity School Library
creatorOf Nippur, Iraq expedition records, Bulk, 1888-1900, 1881-1900 University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
referencedIn Vol. CXIII (ff. 200). July, 1888 -Mar. 1889.includes:f. 1 Fereeda Barker, daughter of E B B Barker: Letter to Sir A. H. Layard: 1888. f. 5 G-Bertin: Letter to Sir A. H. Layard: 1888. ff. 7, 60 Conte Luigi Palma di Cesnola, archaeologist: Letters t... British Library
referencedIn Oliver Wendell Holmes collection of papers, 1833]-1908, 1838-1894 The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
referencedIn John Jay Chapman papers Houghton Library
referencedIn Office of the Provost Records. Charles Custis Harrison Administration 1854-1943 (bulk 1891-1927) University of Pennsylvania, Archives & Records Center
referencedIn Committee of Fourteen records, 1905-1932 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Papers, 1857-1962. Andover-Harvard Theological Library
referencedIn Farnam family papers, 1721-2002 (inclusive), 1850-1937 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Century Company records New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Boas, Ernst Phillip, 1891-1955. person
correspondedWith Century Company corporateBody
correspondedWith Chapman, John Jay, 1862-1933 person
associatedWith Committee of Fourteen (New York, N.Y. : 1905) corporateBody
correspondedWith Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel, 1853-1935 person
associatedWith Dodge, Henry Nehemiah, 1843-1937. person
associatedWith Farnam family family
associatedWith Farnam family. family
associatedWith Fisher, Clarence Stanley, 1876-1941 person
associatedWith Haynes, John Henry person
associatedWith Hilprecht, Hermann Vollrat, 1859-1925. person
associatedWith Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894 person
associatedWith University of Pennsylvania. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Pennsylvania. Office of the Provost. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Nippur (Iraq)
Archaeological expeditions
Excavations (Archaeology)


Birth 1852

Death 1921



Ark ID: w6gm88d3

SNAC ID: 39033690