A curated book of photographs from the collection of South African archaeologist, AJH “John” Goodwin (1900 – 1959). By Nick Shepherd. Part of the Series in Visual History by the CCA; published by Jonathan Ball Publishers in May 2015. Online version by Niek de Greef.

The Mirror in the Ground is a curated book of visual essays, drawing on photographs from the collection of John Goodwin, the South African archaeologist. Goodwin was a formative figure in the founding of South African (and African) archaeology. The collection relating to his life and work consists of manuscripts and typescripts, field notebooks, a voluminous correspondence, and so on. It also consists of thousands of photographic prints, negatives and glass plates. The photographs speak of a number of significant themes in the founding and “disciplining” of archaeology as a knowledge project in the first half of the twentieth century. These include the role of fieldwork and the emergence of a conception of the archaeological field, the role of so-called “native” labour in archaeology, the emergence of an enthusiastic amateur constituency, the evolution of fieldwork techniques, and so on. In examining the conjunction between archaeology and photography, Shepherd was particularly interested in the role of the visual imagination in the making of the discipline. More generally, Shepherd is interested in exploring what it means to approach intellectual history through the photographic image.

Header image from the book. Caption: The South African archaeologist AJH “John” Goodwin and an unnamed assistant, Oakhurst Cave, southern Cape coast, 1932-1935.