Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tim Cashion has called attention to Linda Braidwood's Digging Beyond the Tigris and its very human account of archaeological excavation in Iraq. Following this theme, we should also take note of Mary Chubb's City in the Sand. It first appeared in 1957 and has recently been reprinted by Libri Publications Ltd, United Kingdom, 2001.

Miss Chubb had spent the 1931/32 season with the Egypt Exploration Society's expedition at El-Amarna in Egypt. She was not an academic but rather a secretary and bookkeeper, and she found dig life most agreeable, at least compared to London winters. Unfortunately, the Amarna Expedition did not return to the field the following year, nor did prospects for work on Crete pan out. Alas. And then a chance encounter with Henri Frankfort opened up another possibility. They had known each other from Frankfort's time as Field Director of the Amarna Expedition. More recently, he had been hired by James Henry Breasted as Field Director of the Oriental Institute's Iraq Expedition, and he badly needed a secretary; apparently the University of Chicago accountants could not bear his typing or bookkeeping. He offered her the job and she accepted with enthusiasm.

City in the Sand is her account of her time in Iraq with the Oriental Institute's expedition excavating in the Diyala. Those of us acquainted with the work of this expedition will find many familiar names -- Pierre Delougaz, Thorkild Jacobson, Rachel Levy, Seton Lloyd, Gordon Loud -- and a wealth of personal detail. For everyone else, there is the near perfect account of the 'romance of archaeology.' She was an enthusiastic observer of all they encountered, all presented with a lively narrative style and enriched with anecdote. It is a wonderful read.

Miss Chubb also wrote Nefertiti Lived Here, covering her time with the Amarna Expedition. I have not read it yet, but I expect it will also be a very good read. It, too, has been reprinted by Libri Publications Ltd.

Ray Tindel

1 comment:

Margie said...

Dr. Ray, Margie Dillard Fuqua is trying to get back in touch with you. new email address is: Preferable email address