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IntErPreTeD iNteRprEted WITNESS Part Indiana Jones and part academic scholar, George Forsyth traveled the world documenting sacred sites and undertaking ambitious archaeological surveys, including that of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. His collection at the Bentley is full of priceless details about holy structures, many of which have already been lost to the ravages of war and time. By Mary Jean Babic

NESTLED INTO THE STEEP GRANITE SLOPES of Mount

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Sinai, in Egypt, St. Catherine’s Monastery occupies, as its website describes it, “God-trodden” land. This is where, it is believed, Moses spoke to God through the burning bush and, on top of the mountain, received the Ten Commandments. Built in the sixth century during the reign of Emperor Justinian, St. Catherine’s—commonly referred to simply as Sinai—is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery in the world. For 1,500 years it has welcomed pilgrims, served as a fortress against invaders, and housed priceless Byzantine art. To this day, Greek Orthodox monks rise at four o’clock in the morning to keep canonical hours behind the ancient stone walls, in the spiritual tradition of retreat from the world. Despite its longevity and historical importance, Sinai had never been the subject of an in-depth archaeological study until the mid-1950s. That’s when George H. Forsyth Jr., then a professor in and chair of U-M’s History of Art Department, arrived at Sinai for the first time. Already a veteran of excavations in France, Turkey, and the Near East, Forsyth, then in his mid-50s, was scouting his next adventure. Sinai would prove to be his biggest. Forsyth’s early Sinai explorations grew into the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions, a multiyear, three-university project led by Forsyth that brought dozens of specialists and literally tons of equipment into the desert to perform a top-to-bottom survey of Sinai’s archaeological features and art treasures. Research teams worked at Sinai during monthslong campaigns in 1958, 1960, 1963, and 1965.

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Profile for Bentley Historical Library

Collections Magazine, Fall 2018  

In this issue of the Bentley Historical Library's magazine, we explore the life of LGBTQ pioneer Ruth Ellis, as well as the Fourth Amendment...

Collections Magazine, Fall 2018  

In this issue of the Bentley Historical Library's magazine, we explore the life of LGBTQ pioneer Ruth Ellis, as well as the Fourth Amendment...