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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Samarra 1911: The Life of an Alleged Spy: Guns, Kissing, and the Excavation of Balkuwara

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Balkuwārā Palace, Isometric Reconstruction of the Western Īwān and the Cruciform Reception-Hall Block, 1911-1936 [drawing]. Freer|Sackler Archives.
Ernst Herzfeld grew frustrated with delays the spring had brought him and in mid-July hired more workmen in an effort to increase productivity.  He hired a total of 70 workmen for Manqur, and in the last week of July they revealed the central audience hall of Balkuwara.  During this time he uncovered the "rooms adjacent to the courtyard in front of the audience block - the 3rd Cour d'honneur, as Herzfeld called it. In late August he reached the pavilions to the west of the audience hall over-looking the Tigris while work inside the main iwan, the 'Great Iwan,' was still continuing." As described by Thomas Leisten, in his book Excavation of Samarra, Volume 1 Architecture. Final Report of the First Campaign, 1910-1912.

Image Above: Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Balkuwārā Palace, Isometric Reconstruction of the Western Īwān and the Cruciform Reception-Hall Block, 1911-1936 [drawing].

August 7th-8th soon interrupted Herzfeld's hopes for productivity.  On the night of the 7th, Herzfeld heard shouting from the sandbank near the camp.  Herzfeld's guards and servants went to check on the situation but as they reached the area, a Bedouin man emerged and ran away towards the north.  Herzfeld and his group got close enough for them to shout "Don't be afraid!" which prompted the runner to turn and fire his gun.  Herzfeld launched towards him, but was deflected by the runner's stick.  Herzfeld pursued until he reached the tent of the shaykh.  Once there he sent word to all the officials, and a police force of 20 men showed up.  Afterward, in his diary, Herzfeld recounts how they then entered into a lengthy negotiation process.  Herzfeld repeatedly demanded the man, his horse, and his gun; but was only presented with the wrong revolver and the horse.  After several more hours, the captain of police said that he could do little other than arrest the shaykh, which would incite a Bedouin attack on Herzfeld.  After several more hours of a stalemate the captain "brought the affair to a quick resolution by declaring the case would be laid in my hands and if I would accept the supplication for forgiveness he would not prosecute. By this and the preceding disclosures I was nolens volens obliged to say Amen. I got more foot-kisses and other kisses and eventually everybody left (Herzfeld's 1911 diary, now held at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)."  A later entry on August 12, Herzfeld confirms that the runner who shot at him was the brother of the shaykh.

Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Balkuwārā palace, gate II, plan and section of southern wing, 1911-1936 [drawing]. Freer|Sackler Archives.
By mid-August, 200 men were working on Bulkuwara to excavate the gates and access to the courtyards in front of the audience hall.  On August 29th excavators had reached the eastern gate and had discovered a bath to the south of the audience hall.  With the excavation of Balkuwara nearing completion, Herzfeld wanted to begin excavation of al-Sanam and al-Qadisiyya.  However a sandstorm on August 30th gave him cause to review his notes for two days and two nights; giving him the revelation that he still needed to draw and map out the ruins and excavation sites if he wanted to obtain further funding for a second campaign on Samarra.  Herzfeld took a two month break from excavating to rectify his record keeping and to give relief to his strained budget.

Image to the Left: Excavation of Sāmarrāʼ (Iraq): Balkuwārā palace, gate II, plan and section of southern wing, 1911-1936 [drawing].

On September 6th, while mapping out the ground plan of Balkuwara, Herzfeld discovered that there had been two mosques in the open spaces.  In his remaining days there he and his depleted crew explore the space of the mosques, gates, and pavilions on the ridge above the river.  After a one-day exploration of al-Sanam, Herzfeld determined that no further work was warranted.  At this time Herzfeld was ready to retire for a break to Baghdad, but on September 10th he learned of a plot by the notorious Jemil Effendi to accuse Herzfeld of "staying overnight outside the camp and undertaking suspicious excursions at night - in short, of acting like a spy." The only hint of resolution Leisten provides us is one line,"Herzfeld and the Qa'immaqam broke off all communication" (Excavation of Samarra, 17)."

Samarra 1911: Excavation of Shabbat al-Hawa, Qasr al-Ashiq, and Qubbat al-Sulaibiyya
Samarra 1911: Clashes with Authority led to Sabotage 
Samarra 1911: Excavation of the Great Mosque Finishes, al-Quraina Begins
100th Anniversary of the Samarra Excavation by Ernst Herzfeld

Samarra Resource page.

Rachael Cristine Woody

Freer|Sackler Archives

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