Author photo. Woolley (left) and T. E. Lawrence at Carchemish. Image from <i><a href="http://www.archive.org/details/deadtownslivingm00wooluoft">Dead Towns and Living Men</a></i> (1920) at the <a href="http://www.archive.org">Internet Archive</a>

Woolley (left) and T. E. Lawrence at Carchemish. Image from Dead Towns and Living Men (1920) at the Internet Archive

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Charles Leonard Woolley, known as Leonard all his life, was born in the London borough of Hackney, the son of a clergyman. He originally intended to become a clergyman himself. He was educated at St. John's School and Oxford University, where he decided to become an archeologist. In 1905, he became assistant keeper (curator) of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. He began his archeological career the following year working on a dig at a Roman site at Corbridge, Northumberland. From 1907 to 1911, he participated in an expedition to Wadi Halfa, Sudan, an area rich in Egyptian antiquities. In the three years prior to World War I, he worked on the ancient Hittite city of Carchemish in the Sinai peninsula with T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). He served as an officer in the Intelligence Service in World War I. Starting in 1922, Woolley led the 12-year-long excavation of the ancient Sumerian city of Ur, in modern-day Iraq, a project funded jointly by the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania. Agatha Christie, who became a friend of Woolley and his wife Katharine, arrived in Mesopotamia in 1928. She married his assistant Max Mallowan in 1930 and wrote Murder in Mesopotamia (1936) based on her impressions of the archaeological site. Woolley's pioneering discoveries and scholarship became the basis of our modern understanding of Mesopotamian civilization, and made him world-famous. In 1930, he published Ur of the Chaldees, which became the best-selling book on an archaeological subject. He was knighted in 1935. During World War II, he joined the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section of the Allied armies, known as the "Monuments Men," as Archaeological Advisor and traveled to Sicily, Italy, and Northern Europe. After the war, he returned to his excavations at Tell Atchana in southeastern Turkey until 1949.
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