Unseen photograph of Lawrence of Arabia is set for auction

3:00pm Monday 30th May 2011

By Diarmuid MacDonagh

A previously unseen photograph of Lawrence of Arabia taken at an archaeological dig in the Middle East before he rose to fame has emerged for sale.

He is pictured in 1912 looking shy and standing next to an ancient find of carved rock depicting a bowman in the back of a chariot.

TE Lawrence was visiting the archaeological site in Tell Halaf in Mesopotamia - modern-day Syria - from another dig nearby that he was involved with.

The site was being excavated by Germans Max Freiherr von Oppenheim and Robert Rauschenberg.

One of their team took many photographs of the dig, including one of Lawrence when he visited.

The album of snaps is also an important record of what archaeological items were discovered during the dig, as many might not have survived.

The site dates to the 6000 BC and was later the location of the Aramaean city-state of Guzana or Gozan.

There a few pictures of Lawrence from this time in his life before the war when he became hugely famous for helping the Arabs.

Unlike later pictures when he was wearing full native garb, he is shown in this snap with a sensible jacket and shirt with enormous collars.

The album is set to fetch £3,500 when it goes under the hammer at Mullock’s auction house in Ludlow, Shropshire, on June 2.

Richard Westwood-Brookes, from the saleroom, said: “This album of unseen photos was taken by a member of the Oppenheim-Rauschenberg dig in Mesopotamia.

“Lawrence was working on another archaeological project close by and went over to see how they were getting on and that is when the picture was taken.

“Lawrence was very shy and there are not many photographs of him from this stage of his life prior to the Arab revolt when he became famed across the world.

“He worked as an archaeologist across the Middle East and he spoke native languages which helped him greatly when war broke out.

“This album might also prove to be very important in terms of the archaeology because many of the pieces shown might have been lost or destroyed.

“The pictures are previously unseen and of great interest to collectors, historians and archaeologists.”

Lawrence became a household name after leading the Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War One.

The fame didn’t sit easily with him and after the war he changed his name, joined the RAF and was based in remote British India.

He was forced to return to Britain when rumours circulated that he was involved in espionage activities.

In 1932 he was stationed in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight where he specialised in building high-speed rescue boats for the RAF and the Royal Navy.

Lawrence died age 46 after crashing his Brough Superior SS100 motorbike near to his home in Dorset.

He died six days later and subsequently theories began to arise about him being deliberately run off the road by government agencies.

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