3 Women in
Gertrude Bell was the daughter of a
wealthy British family. By the age of
19, she had gained a first class honors
degree at Oxford. A visit to an uncle,
who was British minister in Tehran, led
her to write a book called Persian
Over the next decade, she traveled
around the world, learning a number of
languages and developing a passion for
Travels in the Middle East led to her
Sophie Schliemann (1852-1932)
Gertrude Bell (1868-1926)
Teresa Goell (1901-1985)
Sophie Engastromenos was a bright
and beautiful 17-year-old Greek
student when she met and married the
German businessman and amateur
archeologist Heinrich Schliemann. He
was 47, a wealthy man who spoke
many languages. Sophie became his
perpetual student, learning history and
archeology, working with him in his dig
at Hissarlik where he searched for the
ruins of ancient Troy.
Sophie went into the archeological trenches, directed a crew of
Turkish workmen, and helped her husband smuggle the gold treasure
they discovered out of Turkey. She is pictured above wearing some
Returning to Greece, they excavated tombs they assumed were those
of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, their bodies covered with gold and
jewels, in the agora at ancient Mycenae. Their greatest find, they
dubbed â€œthe mask of Agamemnon."
Unfortunately, in their haste to reach what they assumed was Troy at
the second and third level above bedrock, they had cut right through
the sixth level, where it actually lay. The same thing happened at
Mycenae, where the tomb they found was many centuries older than
But, despite their errors, their courage and determination helped feed
public interest in history and archeology and preserve their findings for
later scholars to study. In 1877, the Royal Archeological Institute of
London honored Heinrich and Sophia. She gave the address, and
was praised by Lord Talbot as â€œthe first lady who has ever been
identified in a work so arduous and stupendous.â€� She received a
standing ovation. (Daniel J. Boorstein, The Discoverers, 1985).
Syria: The Desert and the Sown. Her vivid descriptions introduced
the Arabian deserts to the western world. She chronicled her
excavations with archeologist and New Testament scholar Sir William
M. Ramsey in A Thousand and One Churches.
Next, she went to Mesopotamia where she mapped and described
the Hittite city of Carchemish, consulting with T.E. Lawrence, one of
the archeologists there.
Denied a request for a Middle East posting at the outbreak of World
War, she volunteered with the Red Cross in France. She opposed
womenâ€™s suffrage, feeling that most women at the time were
unprepared to decide how a nation should be ruled.
In 1915, she was summoned to Cairo to work in the Arab Bureau,
organizing information about Arab tribes collected by herself and
other archeologists in the area, to be used by the British against the
Turks. The next year, Gen. Clayton sent her to Basra to advise
officials and draw maps to help the British reach Baghdad safely.
There she rose to the title of Oriental Secretary.
With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1919, Bell was assigned
to analyze the options for leadership in Iraq. She helped create a
country with a Shiâ€™ite majority in the south and Sunni and Kurdish
minorities in the center and north. Bell felt that final authority should
rest with the Sunnis to avoid a religious state.
She advised King Faisal, the king of Iraq, formed the Iraqi
Archaeological Museum in Baghdad from her own collection of
artifacts and established The British School of Archeology, Iraq, to
endow excavation projects from her will. Bell insisted that antiquities
remain in the country where they were discovered.
Theresa Goell was born in New
York City and grew up in
Brooklyn, spending summers at
the familyâ€™s house in the
Catskills. She graduated Phi Beta
Kappa from Radcliffe in 1923.
While at Radcliffe, she
experienced a permanent hearing
loss and learned to
read lips. As the technology advanced, she began wearing hearing aids.
During her junior year, she married Cyrus Levinthal. After her
graduation, they both studied at Cambridge. They had one son and then
Goell did archeological field work in Jerusalem and Gerasa,
Trans-Jordan, under the auspices of the American School of Oriental
Research. She also made drawings of ceramics and restored terra cottas
Returning to New York in the late 30s and remaining through the war,
she worked and took classes, returning to the Middle East when her
professor suggested she study the finds at Mt. Nimrud on the Anatolian
plateau of southeastern Turkey.
She spent her life excavating the site, now known as Nemrud Dagh,
supported by the Bollingen Foundation and the National Geographic
Society. In March 1961, The National Geographic published an article
and the National Geographic Society produced a film about her work.
She became Director of Excavations at Samosata, the city of Antiochus
I. On the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic, the
Cultural Ministry of Turkey recognized her contributions to Turkish
culture and art.