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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his family


Carchemish

June 13 1911

I fancy about a week has passed since I wrote, though it seems to me I do little else all the evenings: of course there is much developing and pot-mending and writing up of notes to do.

About our digs. Mr. Hogarth said 'Go on two months' which will take us into the grapes and water-melons: we have just arrived at the apricots. Thompson has given up testing the site (perhaps a little too soon) and so we are concentrating on the three best points we have found. No results to date or next week either, since it takes very long to get down through the surface earth. We have got a very interesting base of a column in basalt, Hittite, and I think unique: and a poor sculpture or two: one, the lower half of a man holding a lion-cub by the hind legs, I think I mentioned. In pottery no results, beyond a pocket of Hellenistic amphorae: and some of the very best of the little terracotta figures of horses that have been so frequent on the site. We have now about 200 of them: quite a reasonable stud.

Euphrates is falling continually, and every day new shoals and islands appear: the current runs about 3 miles an hour, which with the stream 10 feet lower than before is not so bad.

We have been a good deal disgusted with the locusts. They have been in great plenty, but small in size: yet it was horrible to see them everywhere so quickly that the ground seemed to take flight before one's steps, and their continual singing made one's ears hum as though they were deafened. I don't think I have ever seen a more detestable beast: one would almost have killed them with pleasure, but the winds did that without our help. For three days the river was full of their bodies, and I could not take photographs for the air was silky in texture with the shimmering of all their wings. I have picked up a dead one for Arnie, and if he dries nice and sweet I will send him along by post. Singly, like human beings, locusts would be nice enough: in millions they are intolerable. There is no leaf or green ear left in the fields on which they pitched: but they were strangely irregular, and so the losses are not total, even in corn, and the liquorice is unhurt. With the metayer tenancy in force however, very little of the village harvest goes to the common people.

Of other things there is really nothing to say. The weather is getting a little warmer: about 86 just now (9 p.m.). No mosquitoes to speak of, but heaps of sandflies which bite of course, much worse.

The house is so full of fleas that I have carried a bed down to the mound, and sleep there for comfort's sake. It is very pleasant in the moonlight, to look down, on one side to the rushing Euphrates, and on the other over the great plain of Carchemish, to the hills of the Salt Desert on the S. Our diggings are certainly in one of the loveliest spots in the world: and in one of the most memorable.

I slept up here the other night after developing till past midnight: we had little sleep, both of us, and were then roused by a rustle, which grew to a roar as a great white thing leaped through the hole near the roof which does duty for a window, right out towards my bed. Thompson was up at once with a fearful yell; and all his spare hairs on end; and we both grabbed the same revolver at the same instant, and tried to fire. But it was only the newspapers which we had stuffed in to keep out the birds and bats, and which a sudden puff of wind had flung into the room. We were just in the full force of this discovery when Haj Wahid (who sends salaams to Father) bounded in with a kitchen hammer in one hand and a rifle in the other, while our two zaptiehs came thundering at the garden door, to learn what was the matter. Thompson's yell was the cause of all that and of the wondering requests of the villagers the next day. He is a restless being at night, always getting up to souse the stray cats that come and sing by his bedside in buckets of water. He is nice about his water, and will not put two cats in in the same pail. We have now (good fortune for me) got rid of meat eating. It kept on being bad, and any little thing upsets Thompson's stomach: so now a chicken once or twice a week, a fish or two from the river: but there is rice, and bread and leben which are better.

Mohammed Jasim (a great man this) slays fishes in the river with his sword: and brings down doves, and hoopoes, for his pot, with stones. The hoopoes are glorious birds, and now being full-fed of flesh meat their plumage shines, and the crests on their head ruffle and perk to see their mates. They are pairing, and to attract the females sit on great rocks and blow their beaks: at least it makes a noise like a snuffle.

Today I cured a man of compound scorpion-bite by a few drops of ammonia: for that I have a fame above Thompson's as a hakim: and as a magician who can conjure devils into water, from my mixing a seidlitz powder for the Haj, in the kitchen before visitors. Am now going to scribble a very short line to Florence, and then to bed: the walk of 15 minutes, in the gale that always blows, is just enough to cool one off.

Salaams.

N.

 

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Source: HL 167-9
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 28 January 2006

 



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