4pm, 6th November 2014, BP Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre, British Museum. To book, contact the British Museum Box Office: 020 7323 8181 or www.britishmuseum.org
Sam Moorhead, British Museum, Portable Antiquities Scheme
(Image PEF archives)
As trauma grips the Middle East today, it is interesting to go back a hundred years to the last year of peace in the region before the outbreak of World War One. The Ottoman Empire was still the major power in the Levant, but Britain and Germany both had major interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. With this in mind, Lord Kitchener realised the importance of completing the Palestine Exploration Fund’s mapping of the Holy Land; the Negeb Desert south of Beersheba had not been covered in the 19th century survey. Therefore, in December 1913, a Royal Engineers cartographic team was sent into the Wilderness of Zin in southern Palestine, with an archaeological smokescreen provided by the PEF which employed two young archaeologists who were later to become famous in their own right: Leonard Woolley and T. E. Lawrence. This short episode brings together numerous strands of political, military, archaeological and social activity on the eve of the Great War, and was also to be an essential experience for the future Lawrence of Arabia. Sam Moorhead edited the latest version of the Wilderness of Zin, published by the PEF and Stacey International in 2003.
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