Friday, October 26, 2012

Here's the Proof --
The American Colony Photographers Focused on Agricultural Prohibitions Found in the Bible

Original caption: "Threshing, Floor (illeg.)"
(Credit: George Eastman House, circa 1900)
Editor's note, Oct 30: upon reviewing the files in the Eastman collection, we would like to raise the possibility that the word "illeg." on the file could also be a shorthand for "illegible."

Earlier this year we posted this feature on agriculture in the Holy Land 100 years ago. We wondered why the photographs seemed to focus on Arab agriculture in Palestine, and we presented a theory that they were documenting Biblical prohibitions and violations.

We recently found this American Colony picture (top right) in the George Eastman House collection. Its caption notes the "illeg." nature of muzzling animals during threshing.  The theory is no longer theoretical.

The American Colony photographers were religious Christians and probably knew the Bible from beginning to end. 

"Thou shall not plow with an ox and an ass together."
לא תַחֲרֹשׁ בְּשׁוֹר וּבַחֲמֹר יַחְדָּו
Deuteronomy 20 (photocrome, circa 1890)

Some of their pictures reflected religious themes, such as women working in the field in the tradition of Ruth, or young shepherds near Bethlehem. 

Plowing with a cow and a camel (circa 1900)
 They also focused on one area of Biblical prohibitions -- the care of farm animals.  Many pictures portray mismatched animals pulling a plow, and one picture shows a muzzled cow threshing wheat.

"Thou shall not muzzle an ox in its threshing"
לֹא תַחְסֹם שׁוֹר בְּדִישׁוֹ
Deuteronomy 25 (circa 1900)


Plowing with a cow and and an ass
 (circa 1900) See also here

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Click on the captions to see the originals.

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