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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his family


23, May 1911

We have just heard from Mr. Hogarth. He suggests 6 weeks more dig. So go on writing to Aleppo for a long time: till mid-July at least. The prospects of a second season are a very little better. This week we have found a Hittite seal, and proved that the great wall in 'palace' down below turns at a rt. angle after the end of the chariot relief procession. It is this latter idea which is cheering: there may be something inside, and in any case the wall does not end abruptly. We were only feeling along the one side of it: and cannot do much more this year, because of the stone-heaps that have massed up.

I am writing now in a Temple, (or palace) on the N. end of the mound: the part showing in a sort of sketch I sent you. We dug down to it, and Thompson was disappointed in what he found: but now he is getting more hopeful. I don't suppose though that we can touch it again this year. In it we found the little lions I sent last week, and a memorial altar, with four lines of linear script. I think the building is by far the earliest Hittite thing we have found. But that remains to be proved. There remain the foundations nearly everywhere, and in places one stone above them. So it is really a find. The pottery in it was early. Thompson as a cuneiformist has no care for buildings or pottery, or sculptures. He wants tablets in cuneiform: and we have found none. So he is a little disappointed generally. But we have not done so badly on the whole, in large objects: and I think this building might provide the small ones.

I told you we had got rid of our first Commissaire? Now we have got rid of our second; and are hoping that the third will not last out very long. You see the finds are not at all encouraging (a week for a single cylinder seal!) the village is a very poor one, without the amenities dear to the 'cultivated' Turk, and the power and opportunity of the Commissaire (thanks to our attitude) nil. So they have a very poor time: and since the first one left under such circumstances (and has had such a time since leaving, with the Government after him for the money he got on false pretences) they are all very low, and reverent to our excellencies. We are all Beys here, you know.

Miss Gertrude Bell called last Sunday, and we showed her all our finds, and she told us all hers. We parted with mutual expressions of esteem: but she told Thompson his ideas of digging were prehistoric: and so we had to squash her with a display of erudition. She was taken (in 5 minutes) over Byzantine, Crusader, Roman, Hittite, and French architecture (my part) and over Greek folk-lore, Assyrian architecture, and Mesopotamian Ethnology (by Thompson); Prehistoric pottery and telephoto lenses, Bronze Age metal technique, Meredith, Anatole France and the Octobrists (by me): the Young Turk movement, the construct state in Arabic, the price of riding camels, Assyrian burial-customs, and German methods of excavation with the Baghdad railway (by Thompson). This was a kind of hors d'oeuvre: and when it was over (she was getting more respectful) we settled down each to seven or eight subjects and questioned her upon them. She was quite glad to have tea after an hour and a half, and on going told Thompson that he had done wonders in his digging in the time, and that she thought we had got everything out of the place that could possibly have been got: she particularly admired the completeness of our note-books. So we did for her. She was really too captious at first, coming straight from the German diggings at Kala'at Shigrat, where they lay down gravel paths, wherever they want to prove an ancient floor, and where they pile up their loose stones into walls of palaces. Our digs are I hope more accurate, if less perfect. They involve no 'reconstruction', which ruin all these Teutons. So we showed her that, and left her limp, but impressed. She is pleasant: about 36, not beautiful, (except with a veil on, perhaps). It would have been most annoying if she had denounced our methods in print. I don't think she will.

That is the finish of our news. Euphrates has fallen, nearly to normal: the weather is hot, with thunder, and showers occasionally. The harvest is now going on: all barley, no wheat in this district: just alternate crops of barley, liqourice, and fallow. They reap it green, and let it dry cut.

No more trouble from the men: since the high dispute of Monday fortnight the days have gone as smooth as oil. Of course we got rid of some 30 of the ring-leaders, which 'pacifies' the rest.

I forgot to say that Miss Bell left us two Merediths', the Sandra Belloni series: great joy to one half of the expedition at least. She is going back as quick as she can (from Baghdad and Diarbekir), and so had done with them.

They prepared their inflated skins for swimming by rubbing into them salt and flour (barley-flour): it is interesting. The hair is scraped off with a knife. I have had the goat-skin that wrapped up the men's feast-meat so treated, and propose to bind a book or two in it. It is really very good stuff, and to have a book in the skin that one used to cross the Euphrates on would be a pleasure. If I had thought of it I would have got a tolerable looking Xenophon before I left Oxford, for the purpose. But if we have a second season it will be the same thing. Crossing the river is a matter of 20 minutes, and about a mile. Thompson, using crawling and trudging strokes in swimming cannot advance a single inch against stream, or even hold his own; he goes down steadily at about 1 m.p.h.: and at a fast trot when he swims with the current.  It is such a pity to be think of a huge iron girder bridge across this river below us. They expect to be four years building it, and that will mean a town of navvies, and all those beautiful villages spoilt: not to mention that they will sack the ruins for stone.

I am going to take a few photographs now. Have taken them. My camera is proving a good one: and the telephoto has been used several times of late: It acts (at a couple of miles) rather better than the naked eye.

Last week we dismissed the son the Sheikh Ibrahim; a village worthy; the old man came into our kitchen next day, and told Haj Wahid (sends his salaams to Father) that he was going to ensorcel Thompson and myself and Haj Wahid, and our overseers, if his son was not put back. The Haj came to us a little perturbed. He thought it might be best to use force on the old man to dissuade him, and it really was serious, for a case of illness in the expedition would have put us under his thumb. So we told Haj not to mind: that you made a wax image of the man, with one of his hairs in it: that you said certain words, and stuck a pin though the heart at midnight: or warmed it over a charcoal fire, and as each drop spluttered and fell, a day would go from his life. Haj rushed out, and pulled one of his hairs from the old man's head: and then triumphantly told him what was in store. The old man begged his peace of us, swearing good conduct for all our lives, and offered us a hen: (refused), but the request for peace was granted, and a hair (not the hair I suspect) was returned. Our renown advances in the Arab-speaking world. In case former letter does not get through: I have books and films of last parcel: all very good.

We have a large beast, like an 18 inch chameleon on the mound. I am trying to photo him for Arnie, such a quaint insect to look at, a small crocodile, almost.



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Source: HL 160-63
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 28 January 2006


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