Dagger and sheath

Dagger and sheath from Ur, copy of an original in the Iraq Museum, Baghdad

'The lure of the past came up to grab me. To see a dagger slowly appearing, with its gold glint, through the sand was romantic. The carefulness of lifting pots and objects from the soil filled me with a longing to be an archaeologist myself.'
A. Christie, An Autobiography (London, 1981), p. 389

Agatha's first marriage, to Archibald Christie, ended in divorce in 1928. In the autumn of that year she booked a ticket on the Orient Express. From Baghdad she travelled on to Ur, to Leonard Woolley's excavations, widely published in England at that time. Visitors to Woolley's dig were discouraged, but Agatha was warmly received, the formidable Katharine Woolley being an admirer of her books. Agatha was entranced by the beauty of the desert and the life of the camp and took up Katharine's invitation to return early in 1930.

Katharine instructed Max Mallowan, one of Woolley's team, who had been absent the year before, to escort Agatha on a tour of local sights on the way back to Baghdad, and, when she had to return home urgently to her daughter Rosalind, who was ill, Max travelled with her to England. They kept in touch, Max came to stay in Devon, and in May 1930, he asked Agatha to marry him. After a month, she said yes.