Evidence of Lawrence of Arabia's desert parties found in Jordan
The remains of Lawrence of Arabia’s secret desert camp parties have been found perfectly preserved 100 years later.
Thanks to a vague RAF sketch, the desert hero’s sandy hideout was discovered in Jordan by archeologists recently with spent cartridges and gin bottles strewn across it, the Daily Mail reported.
The newly discovered camp was used as a vital desert base by Thomas Edward Lawrence, the British intelligence officer who became the stuff of legends – and was given the moniker Lawrence of Arabia – after his raids on Turkish forces during World War I.
This fascinating insight into Lawrence’s time in modern-day Jordan may have gone forgotten if it hadn’t been for a chance discovery in Britain’s National Archives, according to the Daily Mail.
John Winterburn, an archaeologist at Bristol University, was digging through the archives when he chanced upon a loosely-sketched map from 1918 by a pilot who recalled the camp from memory after a reconnaisance flight, according to the Sunday Times.
Excited by the prospect of uncovering more about Lawrence, he took on the unenviable task of combing through Google Earth images in a bid to find the part of the desert that matched the drawing. According to the Daily Mail, it was part of a 10-year long investigation called the Arab Revolt Project.
After much scouring, the tiny camp was found in November 2012. Lawrence desribed the camp as being “'behind the toothed hill facing Tell Shahm station”.
According to the Sunday Times, upon arrival at the “Tooth Hill” camp in Jordan, close to the modern border of Saudi Arabia, archaeologists found rum jars, broken gin bottles, bully beef tins, spent cartridges and an intact campfire.
Writing on his blog, Winterburn says: “This camp had been used as a staging post for many for the epic raids on the Hejaz Railway at Tel Shahm and Mudawwara. Scattered in the desert floor was the remains of their last meals of rusty tin cans from Lowestoft and fragments of rum jars and gin bottles.'
Lawrence's authorised biographer Jeremy Wilson told the Sunday Times: 'It's a time capsule. Unlike on the western front, in the empty areas of the Middle East it just stays there. So you get a remarkable picture as if you have walked in the day after they left”.
The Sunday Times reports that TE Lawrence stayed at the camp in 1917 and 1918 and that he was regularly joined by British officers.
At the time, the Turks – who were allied with Germany and facing the collapse of the Ottaman empire – were fighting in the Arab Revolt, in which the Brits favored the Arabs to win.
Lawrence, who was born in north Wales in 1888 and learnt Arabic on an archaelogical dig in Syria, had his exploits in the region were immortalised by Peter O'Toole in the 1962 film “Lawrence of Arabia”.