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1909: Letter, dated May 9, from Gertrude Bell
by The Gertrude Bell Archives - Robinson Library
Posted: Wednesday, August 30, 2000 02:31 pm CST

Sunday May 9. [9 May 1909] No, I haven't; it was only the weather. We had a very long hot day today, but it wasn't stuffy like yesterday and consequently we came lightly through it. I packed my camp off at 6 on a 10 hours' march and myself rode up into the hills to see some Assyrian reliefs at a place called Malthai. We had to leave our horses at the foot of the hills and one of my soldiers and I climbed up the rocks for half an hour to where a peasant had told us the reliefs were to be found. But when we reached the place they were nowhere to be seen. So we clambered up and down looking for them in vain and at last I told Abdullah to go down to the valley and fetch a guide. I sat down in a flowery place under a rock (campanula pyramidalis- or something very like it - was stretching its long spires out of the crevices) and considered the wonderful landscape, the wide grassy valley and the rocky chains of the Kurdish hills beyond. The air was full of the sense and the smell of mountains and alive with the sound of mountain waters. All the high places of the world are akin and I was just claiming the rights of citizenship in Kurdistan when Abdullah came back shouting that he had found the reliefs. We had climbed above them. There were 4 of them, four processions all exactly the same; 8 men in long robes with stars upon their high conical hats, 6 of them standing on lions, one on his own feet, one seated in a chair on the back of a lion, a call coming forward towards a personage on a throne who faced them. The books call these Assyrian and others exactly like them in Anatolia Hittite, and my own opinion is that the learned have yet to solve the difficult questions connected with the interchange of religions and artistic conceptions between the two civilizations. But that is their business, not mine, and I fancy they have not yet got the clues. We rode for the rest of the day along the foot of the hills, always through the same deep beautiful grass. A week or two later the inhabitants of the very few villages that are scattered across the plain will set it all on fire, so I'm told, except for a tiny patch round their own houses, lest the Kurds should come down and pasture their flocks and steal and harry far and wide. At 6 in the evening we got into camp in a tiny village under the hills.

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