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Sir Leonard Woolley: Excavations at Ur

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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When the foreman spotted beads coming up ... there might be gold beads as well, but none such were produced by our workmen. It was easy enough to recover what had been stolen. The men worked in gangs o five, each under a pick-man, each in a defined plot of ground. On pay-day I announced that for every gold bead found by Hamoudi the foreman or by ourselves the gang working on the plot concerned was being paid a baksheesh; and the baksheesh was about three times what I thought the local goldsmiths would have paid. The announcement was greeted with astonishment and very obvious chagrin. This was a Saturday; on the Monday the trench-diggers produced a surprising harvest of gold beads -- all of which had on Sunday been bought back from the goldsmiths. Woolley 1954, p 53

It is a strange thing that in soil wherein so much that might be thought enduring rots away completely a fragile material such as wood or matting, though it lose all its substance, yet retains its appearance and its texture and can with care be exposed in such condition that a photograph of it looks like the real thing whereas it is but a film which a touch of the finger or even a breath obliterates more easily than it dislodges the plumage from the wing of a butterfly. Woolley 1954, p 56