SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

August 1, 2012

Witch trials calendar gives daily perspective

For years, Egyptologist Timothy Kendall excavated “an enormous complex” in northern Sudan, where, from 1500 B.C. to 400 A.D., three different empires held sway. The site once served as “the southernmost religious sanctuary for the ancient Egyptians in Africa.” As an associate curator at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, he also helped develop a number of exhibits on ancient cultures.

When Kendall moved to Salem after retiring, he turned his investigative skills on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The result is The 2013 Salem Witch Trials Calendar, which has been on sale locally since June 22.

The calendar is 48 pages and is illustrated with 67 color photographs. It not only offers a timeline of the accusations and trials, but also shows exactly where they happened and describes the people who were involved. The result is a unique guide to the unfolding of those horrible events. The Salem News recently spoke with Kendall about his newly published work.

What drew you to the Witch Trials as a subject?

It’s such a fascinating story about society, about Puritan society. If you can imagine our town in that context, and our neighbors — of 320 years ago — doing that to each other. And especially the fact that, when you step out of your door, you’re in the same space where they walked.

What’s the difference between studying ancient Egypt and Colonial Salem?

The ancient record is very much more sparse. You have a few royal inscriptions, which tend to be full of lies and propaganda. You have to work with what texts you have. What’s fascinating about the witch trials is, there’s so much documentation. We have such riches. All of our land documents are preserved, and all of this testimony of neighbors. You can feel like you know these people personally.

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