Explorers by nature

Hello! You are most welcome to our site dedicated to the travels, enquiries, and researches of celebrity explorers J. Theodore (1852-1897) and Mabel (1847-1929) Bent, undertaken during the last decades of the reign of Queen Victoria. It is hoped that the site will develop into a useful resource for the sharing of information on these great British travellers, who still remain relatively unknown beyond the confines of scholarly bibliographies and the daypacks of Cycladic-island-hoppers.


Recent News

  • June 2024: Friends of the Bent Archive make purchase of a relief medallion of Mabel Bent, sculpted in 1895 by the distinguished modeller Thomas Stirling Lee (1857-1916). An article will be posted here in due course.
  • We are delighted to add (January 2024) that the skeletal material recovered by the Bents from Antiparos in the winter of 1883/4 and now in the Natural History Museum, London, has recently been assessed by Laura Ortiz Guerrero in “Osteological analysis of the Early Bronze Age human remains excavated from Antiparos in the 19th century” (Unpublished Master’s Dissertation, University of Sheffield, Department of Archaeology, 2023).

Coming soon! 

An update on the ‘Bethel Stamp Seal’. Nothing seems to have been added to the mystery of the clay stamp found at Bethel/Beitin in the late 1950s since 2014.  Could this seal be the one Theodore and Mabel brought back to London from Wadi Dawan (Hadramaut) in 1884?

A new series of articles on those who have followed in the footsteps of the Bents, including Gertrude Caton Thompson, Lawrence DurrellVincent C. Scott O’Connor, Robert Liddell, Ernle Bradford, John Freely, Jennifer Barclay

Now available  – the digitisation of Mabel’s ‘Chronicles’, in the words of the Curator of the project for the Hellenic Society, London (Sept 2021):- “The digitisation project encompasses several collections here at the library; most notably … the Bent Collection … which contains the travel diaries of Mabel and Theodore Bent, who travelled in Greece and the Middle East in the late 19th century.”

Mabel Bent’s original diary manuscripts can now be accessed by all who want to accompany this couple around remoter parts of the Levant, Africa, and Arabia through a late-19th century lens.


The main objective of our journey in these pages is to broaden awareness of the nature and extent of the travels and activities of this British couple at the end of the 19th century, and to provide a forum for anyone (enthusiast to academic) interested in the Bents’ researches into matters archaeological and ethnographical, amongst many others, as well as their ineradicable need to be somewhere else!

The expeditions
The expeditions of Theodore & Mabel Bent, 1883-1897 (drawn by G. Griffiths © Glyn Griffiths and the Bent Archive)

You will see that our site explores the couple’s main spheres of research interests (see ‘Explorations’): Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean (1880s), parts of Africa (early 1890s), and Southern Arabia (until Theodore’s death in May 1897).

Beyond these horizons, a major component of the site is the section devoted to the travel diaries kept by Mabel over the nearly twenty years of the couple’s journeys together (see ‘Mabel’s Chronicles). These first-hand accounts of their activities at unexplored archaeological sites from ‘Abyssapolis’ (1895) to (Great) Zimbabwe (1891) are of unique interest.

Other features of this site include:

We very much hope you will enjoy and find much of interest as you travel these pages in the company of our indefatigable Victorian travellers – Theodore & Mabel Bent – and that you will want to share this site among friends, family, and colleagues.

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