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Sir Charles Leonard Woolley

(1880 – 1960)

T.E. Lawrence with Leonard Woolley (right) with a Hittite slab on the excavation site at Carchemish near Aleppo in 1912-1914.

Sir Charles Leonard Woolley was an English archaeologist. From 1905 to 1907, he was assistant keeper in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. His earliest excavation work was carried out in England (Corbridge, 1906–07), Nubia (1907–11), and at Carchemish, Turkey (1912–14). In 1914, he took part, along with T.E. Lawrence, in the expedition surveying Sinai and the Negev, which was a cover for the British military mapping of the Sinai Peninsula. Their report, The Wilderness of Zion (1915), presents the first detailed description of the Byzantine cities of the Negev. During World War I Woolley served as a military intelligence officer and was taken prisoner by the Turks in 1916. He was an officer in the military administration in north Syria in 1919, at which time he resumed excavation at Carchemish. This was followed by work at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt (1921–22), and at Ur of the Chaldees (1922–34), where he discovered the royal tombs of the first dynasty with their magnificent treasures, and also uncovered the city dating from the time of Abraham (Ur III). He then directed excavations in southern Turkey (Hatay province), first at el-Mina (ancient Greek port of Poseidium) from 1936 to 1937 and, afterward, at Tell Atshana (1937–39), where he unearthed the remains of the Alalakh kingdom.

During World War II he was archaeological adviser to the British War Office and after the war again excavated at Tell Atshana (1946–49). In addition to his excavation reports, he wrote Ur of the Chaldees (1929); The Sumerians (1929); Middle East Archaeology (1949); A Forgotten Kingdom (1953); several popular works, especially Digging Up the Past (1930); and his memoirs, Spadework in Archaeology (1953).

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.