James Bell Bullitt Travel Journal
During his travels in Europe, Dr. James Bullitt wrote letters to his son, which now comprise a travel journal associated with the artifacts and photographs in the James Bell Bullitt Collection. Below you will find a link to the transcription of his letters, which he wrote between December 1928 and August 1929, followed by monthly summaries of what he did and where he visited. Some pages are missing, but how they were lost is unknown. A list of select family and travel companions mentioned by Bullitt can be found below as well. As you read this journal, keep in mind it was written in the 1920s, and does not represent contemporary archaeological practices, perspectives, or opinions.
Digital scans of his original travel diary (390 pages in total) can be found among the Bullitt Family Papers, 1772–1960, housed in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC’s Louis Round Wilson Special Collection Library (see Series 4, Folder 104, Volume 6: Diary of James Bell Bullitt, 1928–1929).
Many thanks to Archie Smith, a volunteer in the Research Laboratories of Archaeology who transcribed the letters, and Dr. Steve Davis for his edits.
Bullitt’s account of his travel begin in Paris, France. He vividly depicts his time in this city, visiting museums, cafes, restaurants, art galleries, and book shops as well as other aspects of daily life. His journey continues through the French countryside to Geneva, Switzerland, then to Monaco, and the Italian cities of Genoa, Pisa, Rome, Naples, and Sorrento, where the family celebrated Christmas. He paints an attractive picture of natural landscapes, customs, heritage sites, and culinary practices in Italy. The family then returns to Rome during the final days of 1928 to explore another ancient city.
- Archaeological collections visited: FRANCE – Neanderthal and Cro Magnon remains in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris; Paleolithic artifacts in an unknown museum in Saint-Germain-en-Laye
- Archaeological sites visited: ITALY – Pompeii; Paestum; the Colosseum in Rome; various Roman sites in and around Rome
Bullitt and his family continue their travels throughout Italy in the New Year. He paints an interesting picture of the art and archaeological sites around Rome. His personal thoughts and opinions make this account particularly interesting. They journey through Rome’s countryside into Assisi and finally to Florence where they stay for a few days. They then travel to Venice and Milan. They finish touring Italy by traveling through the Alps to Geneva, Switzerland. After a few days stay they continue their trip to Germany. Bullitt describes their first stop in Nuremburg with a keen eye, before the continue on to Plauen, Dresden, Herzburg, and Berlin.
- Archaeological sites visited: ITALY – Roman ruins in Rome; Excavations at St. Clement’s Church, Rome
During February, the Bullitts stay at a pension in Berlin. Dr. Bullitt spends a few days at a pathology laboratory while his wife and daughter explore the city, shopping, visiting museums, and socializing with friends. He begins translating a book into English about the prehistoric site of Glozel in France. While staying in Berlin, the family enjoys attending different social gatherings (especially at the home of Agatha, Dr. Bullitt’s sister), going to movies, theaters, and operas, as well as different restaurants and cafes. Bullitt gives a colorful and relatively detailed image of the culturally diverse and vibrant city of Berlin during the post-World War I era.
- Archaeological collections visited: GERMANY – Museum for Prehistory and Early History in Berlin
At the beginning of March, the Bullitt family leaves Berlin. They plan to visit prehistoric sites in southern France. They first head south to Halle and then to Weimar, Frankfort am Main, Baden Baden, Heidelberg, Freiberg, and Basil in Switzerland. They stop in Geneva for one or two days. They go to Vichy in order to visit the site of Glozel, just outside a French town by the same name. Next, they stop at Perigueux to visit the town and a private collection of prehistoric artifacts.
- Archaeological collections visited: FRANCE – M. Didon’s private collection of prehistoric implements near Vichy
- Archaeological sites visited: FRANCE – Glozel; Grotte of Puytavet in Ferrières-sur-Sichon, which is probably Le Grotte des Fées
The travel journal for April begins on the 28th of the month, and therefore is much shorter than previous months. It starts in Abbeville, France, where Bullitt explores the gravel pits that may contain Paleolithic material with the help of Harper Kelley and Alice Bowler-Kelley, American archaeology students in Paris. The Kelleys provide purchased and excavated French cultural heritage material to various cultural institutions in the US. They explore the pits along the Somme and Aisne Rivers before traveling to Amiens, where they mainly visit private collections.
- Archaeological collections visited: FRANCE – Dr. Claude Neuilliés’ collection of Chellean and Acheulian flints in Abbeville
- Archaeological sites visited: FRANCE – Gravel pits in Abbeville and Mautort
Bullitt continues his travels through France along with the Kelleys while his wife Evelyn and daughter Margaret spend time in England. They travel to southern France to visit multiple prehistoric sites, dig in gravel pits and grottos, and shop private collections owned by local collectors. He spends the first days of May in Amiens, visiting gravel pits and picking up flint tools. Bullitt then returns to Paris where he spends several days washing, labeling, and organizing the acquired artifacts. Next, they dig at a Neolithic fortified camp just outside of Compienge. From there they travel to Blois and then Combe and visit an open-air Mousterian site. Afterwards, they go to Angoulême and dig at the famous Solutrean site at Le Roc and the well-preserved Mousterian site at La Quina. Next, they stop at Perigueux where Bullitt purchases Magdalenian bone artifacts, then on to Les Eyzies where they do some digging and observe other amateur diggers. They finally return to Angoulême at the end of the month.
- Archaeological collections visited: FRANCE – The Institute for Human Paleontology in Paris; M. Victor Aubert’s collection of prehistoric flints and bones in Maule; M. Nibet’s collection in an unknown town; unknown museum in Saint-Germain-en-Laye
- Archaeological sites visited: FRANCE – Gravel pits in Amiens, Compiegne, Maule, and Flins; Dolmens near Abbeville; Neolithic fortified camp in Compiegne; Le Roc; La Quina; Les Eyzies
During the month of June, Bullitt continues visiting rock shelters and caves in southern France, and excavates at La Roc and La Quina while also purchasing specimens from different private collectors along with the Kelleys. After washing, labeling, and packing his artifacts in Paris for few days, on June 10th he flies to London to join his family before he starts excavating in gravel pits in England. His description of post-World War I London is interesting. He visits different cultural institutions, such as the British Anthropological Association, the British Museum, and the National Gallery. Joined by the Kelleys, he travels to Salisbury to visit Stonehenge and the town of Avebury to call on the excavations at the Neolithic site of Silbury Hill.
- Archaeological collections visited: FRANCE – Village museum in Grand Pressigny • ENGLAND – The British Museum in London; The Museum of London; The Salisbury Museum; Unknown museum in Devizes
- Archaeological sites visited: FRANCE – Le Roc; Villehonneur; Cave of Teyjat; La Quina; Gravel pits near Clan; Chatellerault • ENGLAND – Unknown gravel pits in Salisbury; Belbins gravel pit in Salisbury; Stonehenge; Avebury; Silbury Hill
During July, Bullitt divides his time between visiting sites in England and southern France. At the beginning of the month he stays in London and travels to Ipswich, Norwich, and Cromer. He later goes to Paris and travels to archaeological sites in southern France as part of a Yale University archaeological “field school” led by Dr. George MacCurdy, which consisted of lectures and visits to sites and museums in England, France, and Spain. They visit dolmens and tumuli at Carnac, then travel to Bordeaux, and on to Spain where they visit Alta Mira and other caverns. Near the end of the month, Bullitt and his companions return to France via Toulouse to visit more caves.
- Archaeological collections visited: ENGLAND – Horniman Museum and Gardens in London; The British Museum in London; Natural History Museum in London; Royal College of Surgeons in London; Ipswich Museum • FRANCE – National Museum of Natural History in Paris; unknown museum in Saint-Germain-en-Laye; The Museum of Prehistory in Carnac; The Museum of History and Archaeology in Vannes; M. Lalanne’s collection of Acheulean, Mousterian, Aurignacian and Magdalenian flints and engravings near Bordeaux; unknown museum in Foix
- Archaeological sites visited: ENGLAND – Barnfield Pit; Bramford Pit #1; Grime’s Graves in Norfolk; Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk; unknown beach near Cromer • FRANCE – gravel pits in Mouly, Boutel, Telliers, Bouterey-Muchombled, De Bray, Guichou; unnknown dolmens, menhirs, and tumuli around Carnac; Menec, Kerlescan, Crucuno, and Pierre Chaude in Carnac; dolmen in Mané Leed; Table des Marchands; the long tumulus of ErGrab; dolmen Pierres Plates; Mavé Ruthual; tumulus Mavé-Er-Hroeck; Ile Longue; tumulus of Gavr’inis; cromlech on Er-Lannic; great tumulus St. Michel; Caves in Niaux, Portel, Mas d’Azil, and Trois Frères • SPAIN- caves in Alta Mira, Castillon, and La Pasiega
This month’s account is very brief. Bullitt describes his return to England and time spent with family.
- Archaeological collections visited: FRANCE – The Natural History Museum of Toulouse; Institute for Human Paleontology in Paris; National Museum of Natural History in Paris