Letter from T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) to Leonard Woolley

Halab (Aleppo), Syria, AD 1913

A report on the progress of excavations at Carchemish

Between 1911 and 1914 a British Museum expedition carried out excavations at the ancient site of Carchemish, near modern Jerablus, which stands where the River Euphrates crosses from Turkey into Syria. It was once part of the empire of the Hittites, and it survived for another 500 years after the empire was destroyed in about 1200 BC. The British Museum expedition uncovered much of the walled town with its great fortress, and many carvings and inscriptions.

One of the archaeologists working at Carchemish was T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935), who joined The British Museum expedition in 1911 after leaving Jesus College, Oxford. This letter from Lawrence is to the leader of the expedition, Leonard Woolley, in England. Written from the Baron's Hotel in Halab (Aleppo), Syria, it describes the conditions on the excavation site.

'This year has been terribly wet, and much snow. About 20 houses in the village fell in. Our bedrooms and bath-room and sitting room practically proof - all the others mere sponges.'

He also mentions the new Baghdad Railway which was being built and that passed the site of Carchemish.

The year after this letter was written the First World War began, and the excavations were closed down for several years. Woolley became an army intelligence officer in Egypt, and Lawrence became famous for his legendary, military activities in the Middle East, as related in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926).

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More information


D.G. Hogarth, Carchemish I (London, The British Museum Press, 1969)

C.L. Woolley, Carchemish III (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1952)

C.L. Woolley, Carchemish II (London, The British Museum Press, 1969)


Height: 270.000 mm
Width: 200.000 mm

Museum number

Archives CE32/17/1


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