Kishlak Sabkha, Upper Euphrates
May 8, 1920
We have been making over 4-1/2 miles an hour, and this has brought us here nearly an hour earlier than I expected, for we arrived about 4:30. The reason for our good speed was not alone because we urged the drivers and kept them in a position to be controlled, but because the Euphrates valley spreads out above this place into a plain several miles across, — a dead level and quite capable of cultivation by irrigation. Indeed we saw some traces of irrigation trenches still surviving. While there have been many flourishing shores, with luxurious gardens at intervals, this is the first plain I have seen along the Euphrates above the Babylonian plain, where agriculture might be carried on over a considerable area and furnish the basis for a state and government of some power, just as at Assur. Such observations cannot be made on the basis of the existing maps, and they are of the greatest value in my future historical work. The situation of this plain is well marked by the mountain on the opposite shore, called by the Arabs Jebel Munkhir. It can be seen for hours as one traverses this plain going northward, and it is near the northern end of the plain. The region ought to contain the remains of ancient towns, but thus far I have failed to find any.
We are now about 130 miles from Aleppo, and about 400 from Baghdad, which we left ten days ago. If we are able to stand this pace, getting up at three in the morning, cold food all day, etc., etc., we shall reach Aleppo in three days from this point. One of my pastimes in the arabanah, when I am not studying the topography and the landscape, or catching up with lost sleep, is to make a probable calendar of our future movements, especially the date of our sailing for home. This overland trip across the desert has saved us weeks of time, and brought us at once into north Syria, whence we can move southward toward Egypt and a ship for Italy, doing our work in Syria and Palestine as we go. From Aleppo southward we can use the railway in the Orontes valley, and stop where we wish to make local inspection of the ruins and mounds. In this way we can probably accomplish all that is necessary and reach Egypt in time for a ship to Italy about July first, and thus sailing from Naples probably by July 15. If so I can reach home by the first of August! Hurrah!
Just as I was writing this the old Sheikh of the Sabkha Arabs came in with a note from Nadji Beg, left this morning, as he went off. It asks us to take the old chap along with us,—I suppose for our protection. He is an intelligent old fellow, and loves America like all the Arabs we have met. But he will be rather in the way if we have to take him in our arabanah.
For the full story of my exciting trip you should come to the special exhibit “Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920,” at the Oriental Institute!
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