T.E Lawrence (left) seated next to Leonard Woolley in Carchemish in 1913..
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Within eyesight of Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria, Turkey’s government plans to open an archeological site along the Turkish-Syria border once excavated by T.E Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) as a museum next May.
As a recent graduate of Oxford University, Lawrence spent the years 1910-1914 unearthing the remains of the Hittite empire in the ancient city of Carchemish.
He lived in the Syrian town of Jerabulus, which is now under the blood-soaked rule of Islamic State, and overlooks the ruins of Lawrence’s excavation site. Archeologists resumed digging at the site in 2011.
Nicolo Marchetti, a professor of archeology and history at the University of Bologna, is leading the museum project.
“We hear the shooting at the front in the distance and in September it was quite close to us - perhaps two kilometres away,” he told The Telegraph
. “But it’s still very different from what’s going on in Kobane.”
He added, “To be frank, it’s been a front line – over the border 20 meters away we see normal life and we also see these people coming and going.”
Lawrence’s original quarters – a house used by the Turkish military since the early 1920s – will now serve as part of the museum. In a telling contrast to the violence of the region today, Lawrence said, “We were there for four years and it was the best life I ever lived.”
In a letter to his parents in 1912 he wrote, “Really, this country, for the foreigner, is too glorious for words.”
According to media reports, the museum site is slated to have a four-meter-high anti-sniper wall to protect visitors.
“We don’t expect any danger for now,” Yusuf Osman Diktas, the Turkish regional governor, told The Telegraph
Lawrence, though widely considered an Arabophile, wrote, “The sooner the Jews farm it the better: Their colonies are bright spots in a desert.”
He encouraged Zionist immigration to then Palestine as part of his mediation efforts between Prince Feisal and Chaim Weizmann, who later became Israel’s first president.