Biblical Archaeology Review 35:3, May/June 2009

Past Perfect: Flora and Fauna of Mt. Sedom

Henry Baker Tristram (1822–1906) was an English clergyman, Biblical scholar, world traveler and ornithologist.

He studied at Durham School and Lincoln College, Oxford, was ordained a priest and eventually served as canon of Durham Cathedral in 1873. He was secretary to the governor of Bermuda from 1847 to 1849.

Tristram co-founded the British Ornithologists Union and sold his extensive collection of birds to the World Museum Liverpool. Tristram’s starling, Tristram’s warbler and Tristram’s woodpecker are a few birds named for him.

During several trips to Palestine between 1858 and 1881, Tristram observed, documented and collected species in their natural habitat, making him a pioneer of Palestine zoology. Following are excerpts from one of his many travelogues, The Land of Israel, a Journal of Travels in Palestine (1865), representing his observations and methods. This extract is from a trip near the Dead Sea noting his impressions of various flora and fauna around Mt. Sedom (“Jebel Usdum”).

Our camp was pitched in front of the Wady Zuweirah, with the northern end of Jebel Usdum (“the Mountain of Salt”) little more than a mile distant in front, and a wild thicket of shrubs of various kinds, and many fine acacia-trees, reaching down to the very shore ...

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