On Mrs. Mallowan in Mesopotamia, or Agatha Christie at the Penn Museum

My much-used copy.

My favorite author is Agatha Christie. I credit her novels for planting the seed of my archaeological interest. It took me forever to finish Death on the Nile and Murder in Mesopotamia when I was a kid because I’d stop at every monument reference to old school Google it (ie: check National Geographic).

The dedication in Murder in Mesopotamia

Archaeology was of great interest to the Dame; Murder in Mesopotamia was inspired by her trips to Iraq, its sites, and the people she met there. But she didn’t just go to be a passive observer. Christie’s second husband, Max Mallowan — a younger man who was tasked with escorting her to Baghdad (yeah, Agatha!!! Get some!!!) — was an archaeologist.  When she was on-site, she was there to work, cleaning and preparing artifacts in the excavation house.

Considering my fondness for both Agatha Christie and Mesopotamia, you can imagine my giddiness when I visited the Penn Museum’Iraq’s Ancient Past exhibition and saw this:

And these:

An Agatha banner!! And quotes by Agatha!! Squee!!!! In the banner above, Christie speaks of Katharine Woolley, an archaeology dynamo who worked at Ur and was the (supposed) inspiration for Murder in Mesopotamia‘s Louise Ledner. For those who’ve never read the novel, Ledner is the brash archaeologist’s wife who gets killed, which should give you an idea of Agatha’s opinion of Mrs. Woolley.

Instead of going around and marveling at the finds on display and the history in Iraq, I wandered the hall geeking about about Agatha Christie’s role in Mesopotamian archaeology (a small one, but still — Agatha Christie!!!!) and the use of archives in the exhibition (more on that later).



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