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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his family


March 20, 1911

Have got a letter from Father-Will-Mother: and cuttings: with another letter. Glad all well. May Mods. be profitable. Sports are only a 'divarshun' besides it. My eyes got tired easily with the horrible Arabic type in common use: and with the cuneiform on top. So I gave up reading altogether, that they might be fit for the strong sunlight we expect out here. I thought I had told you that: for it limited my learning of Arabic very seriously. Still I can get on here with what I have: and my eyes are perfectly right again. Nothing more to say I fancy: I have not written to anyone for a long time: for we are rather busy out here. Tonight it is quite impossible to write properly, for it is already late, and we get up at sunrise of course. Still I will tell you a little of the place till the light gives out. We have got the Liquorice Company's house, of which there is a plan overleaf: it is one storied, stone-built will probably be cool in summer. Very cold now, at any rate. I have the large bed-room: also used as store-room: about 45 feet long: but narrow. Garden all round house. Thompson has been planting seeds flower and veg. no results as yet.

We have two servants at present: with one of their wives on the way: probably when Mrs. Campbell Thompson eventuates we will have another. Much eating and civilised, with about £80 worth of stores: and meat etc. on the spot. Unlimited (goat) milk. I hope to make a little vellum from their skins later on.  Village of about 40 houses: on rising ground half a mile from the river: good spring (a little warm) coming up in the middle of it: women weave excellent coarse cloth. All people serfs of one Selim Touma, ex-muleteer, and now liquorice magnate. He is decent towards us, and the piled-up liquorice in the back-yard makes a delicious smell. Also all the men in the village, and the neighbourhood (to no. of 100) are in our employ. The mounds (about ½ mile across), on the banks of the river, are about 15 minutes walk from the house: there is a large central one, and walls round it, and a probable town-site: if we ever have leisure I will send a drawing or plan. Work begins at sunrise (6.O a.m.) we breakfast first and walk down a little later.

Thompson is surveying the site, and will be to the end of the week. Mr. Hogarth does the writing up of the results: I do the squeezing and drawing the inscriptions and sculptures, and (with the great Gregori, of the Accidents of an Antiquary's Life) direct the men. Work goes on (with an hour for lunch) till sunset. Then home: write up journals: and catalogues: feed, and go to bed. This week has been extra busy putting up shelves, and fitting doors, windows etc. This I have done mostly, being handiest. In digging we began where the Museum people had left off 30 years ago. We uncovered a great entrance staircase, with some Hittite slabs on each side, much damaged: now we are rather puzzled with things in general. Lots of miscellaneous bas-reliefs (mostly ugly) have been got out: but till today we have only had few (50) men, and of course as usual there is a huge accumulation of stones on top. At any rate there is no doubt of the great richness of the site. Some 8 or 10 Hittite inscriptions already, and the staircase is of a late city, with infinitely older work buried beneath it. We are going below it shortly. We have 5 cameras (mine is in order of course, with the films Mr. Hogarth brought, but not used yet, no time for photographing) but many of the slabs found have been too defaced for photography. These I have been trying to draw on a large scale for reproduction: this has been a big business. One lion's head is very fine work, artistically: also a god or king. I will send drawings next week perhaps if on Sunday there is breathing space. The men chose that day for their rest, though they are nominal Mahommedans. The Kaimmakan of Biredjik has been warning from C.P. that we are precious people: so there are proclamations going out into all the country that we are tabu: and he has bothered us with what almost amounts to a garrison of soldiers: we have a small camp in our courtyard and not one of them has both gun and cartridges: they share the glory of those things. The district is exceedingly pretty, from the model-village with its spring to the Euphrates, and the plain of Tell Ahmar, and the Taurus, snow-covered, to the North. The whole affair till now has been ideal, or would be if one had time to think about it.

Mr. Hogarth is a most splendid man: has read, and still reads most things, and likes talking about them, and the people who write: he knows Hewlett: the objections seem mistaken in his case: at least D.G.H. gives him a clean bill. Thompson, the second man, is not an archaeologist, but a cuneiformist... very good fun, and very pleasant: knows a tremendous lot about Semitic languages. He expects to be married out here in the Autumn. There seems a little doubt whether we will stop digging at all: but that you will hear (from Leeds via Mr. Hogarth) in June before I do. We are expecting Professor Sayce, and Miss G. Bell (whose book, Between the Desert and the Sown, you might like.) I am expecting a parcel of films, which has got to Beyrout at least.


8 wild boars turned up on Friday at a village over the river: all the people turned out and shot them: a fearful riot... and powder burning.


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Source: HL 140-42
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 8 April 2006


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