Royal processions, carved in relief, cover the walls of a palace complex at Carchemish, which T.E. Lawrence helped uncover on his first archaeological expedition. Sporting a blazer and football shorts (an outfit that later incited the British archaeologist William Flinders Petrie to tease him, “We don’t play cricket here!”), Lawrence served as foreman of a group of local workers.
Located on the western bank of the Euphrates, Carchemish lay on an important trade route linking Anatolia and Assyria with the Mediterranean. Settled as early as 4500 B.C.E., the site was conquered by the Hittites, from central Turkey, who controlled northern Syria from the 14th through the mid-12th century B.C.E., when the Hittite empire fell. From about 1000–800 B.C.E., the site became the capital of the Neo-Hittites, an amalgam of different peoples called Hittites by the Assyrians. The continuous occupation of Carchemish after the fall of the Hittite empire suggests that the Neo-Hittites at this site may well have descended from the Hittites.
Built by the early-ninth-century B.C.E. Neo-Hittite king Suhis and his wife Watis, the long palace wall depicts a train of chariots following a procession of gods and goddesses. The archaeologists reconstructed the wall while awaiting a digging permit in 1914.