Picture this fellow wearing a worn out fedora, a slightly unshaven face and a whip encircling his shoulder. He wears a leather bomber jacket. He’s fit and strong. His brain is sharp. His sense of adventure stirs him into action. Yes, whenever I think of archaeologists, I conjure up this image of Indiana Jones.
In 1840 on this day, George Smith, was born. He was the Assyriologist archaeologist who gained notoriety by translating the Epic of Gilgamesh – one of the oldest pieces of literature ever discovered. He was born in Victorian England into a working class family. It wasn’t easy for the boy to get an advanced education because he also began working at the age of 13.
He had a fascination for Assyrian culture and history and would spend hours at the British Museum studying the cuneiform tablets unearthed in Iraq during the archaeological expeditions of 1840-1855. His interest in these areas, sparked a desire to learn more about these early cultures.
He married Mary Clifton in 1863 and they had six children. By this time, Smith had been noticed by Egyptologist and Director for the Department of Antiquities, Samuel Birch. He would bring the young man to the attention of the renowned Assyriologist Sir Henry Rawlinson. Before his marriage, he worked evenings sorting and cleaning fragments of clay cylinders in the museum storage rooms.
His discovery and translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh led to further expeditions to discover the missing fragments pertaining to the Great Flood story. I find this fascinating too, because I believe in the Bible and over time, the truths of the Bible are being unearthed through archaeology. Almost every culture on earth has a flood story – hmmmm!
In November 1873 Smith again left England for Nineveh and continued his excavations at the tell of Kouyunjik (Nineveh). An account of his work is given in Assyrian Discoveries, published early in 1875. The rest of the year was spent piecing together and translating the fragments relating to the creation.
While on yet another expedition in 1876, Smith became ill with dysentery and died. His wife and children were imparted with a yearly annuity of 150 pounds by the Queen. His discoveries opened the door to further study which continues to today. Slowly, through sifting sand and gentle brushing, the secrets of history are being revealed. Isn’t it amazing how God allows those truths to live on?
By the way, I missed my birthday celebration yesterday for David Lean, English director of “Dr. Zhivago.” Due to other commitments, I didn’t get that one written. Besides, it snowed again last night and I’m a little ticked off.
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY TO DAVID LEAN
& HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO GEORGE SMITH