T. E. Lawrence : biography
Middle East archaeology
At the age of 15 Lawrence and his schoolfriend Cyril Beeson bicycled around Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, visited almost every village’s parish church, studied their monuments and antiquities and made rubbings of their monumental brasses. Lawrence and Beeson monitored building sites in Oxford and presented their finds to the Ashmolean Museum. The Ashmolean’s Annual Report for 1906 said that the two teenage boys "by incessant watchfulness secured everything of antiquarian value which has been found". In the summers of 1906 and 1907 Lawrence and Beeson toured France by bicycle, collecting photographs, drawings and measurements of medieval castles.
From 1907 to 1910 Lawrence studied history at Jesus College, Oxford. In the summer of 1909 Lawrence set out alone on a three-month walking tour of crusader castles in Ottoman Syria, in which he travelled on foot. Lawrence graduated with First Class Honours after submitting a thesis entitled The influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture—to the end of the 12th century based on his field research with Beeson in France, notably in Châlus, and his solo research in the Middle East. On completing his degree in 1910, Lawrence commenced postgraduate research in mediaeval pottery with a Senior Demy, a form of scholarship, at Magdalen College, Oxford, which he abandoned after he was offered the opportunity to become a practising archaeologist in the Middle East. Lawrence was a polyglot whose published work demonstrates competence in French, Ancient Greek, and Arabic. In December 1910 he sailed for Beirut, and on arrival went to Jbail (Byblos), where he studied Arabic. He then went to work on the excavations at Carchemish, near Jerablus in northern Syria, where he worked under D. G. Hogarth and R. Campbell Thompson of the British Museum. He would later state that everything that he had accomplished, he owed to Hogarth. As the site lay near an important crossing on the Baghdad Railway, knowledge gathered there was of considerable importance to the military. While excavating ancient Mesopotamian sites, Lawrence met Gertrude Bell, who was to influence him during his time in the Middle East.
In late 1911, Lawrence returned to England for a brief sojourn. By November he was en route to Beirut for a second season at Carchemish, where he was to work with Leonard Woolley. Before resuming work there, however, he briefly worked with Flinders Petrie at Kafr Ammar in Egypt.
Lawrence continued making trips to the Middle East as a field archaeologist until the outbreak of the First World War. In January 1914, Woolley and Lawrence were co-opted by the British military as an archaeological smokescreen for a British military survey of the Negev Desert. They were funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund to search for an area referred to in the Bible as the "Wilderness of Zin"; along the way, they undertook an archaeological survey of the Negev Desert. The Negev was of strategic importance, as it would have to be crossed by any Ottoman army attacking Egypt in the event of war. Woolley and Lawrence subsequently published a report of the expedition’s archaeological findings, but a more important result was an updated mapping of the area, with special attention to features of military relevance such as water sources. Lawrence also visited Aqaba and Petra.
From March to May 1914, Lawrence worked again at Carchemish. Following the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, Lawrence did not immediately enlist in the British Army; on the advice of S.F. Newcombe he held back until October, when he was commissioned on the General List; and immediately posted to the intelligence staff in Cairo.
Lawrence’s biographers have discussed his sexuality at considerable length, and this discussion has spilled into the popular press. The pieces appeared on the 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th of June, and were based mostly on the narrative of John Bruce.
There is no reliable evidence for consensual sexual intimacy between Lawrence and any person. His friends have expressed the opinion that he was asexual, essay by E.H.R. Altounyan and Lawrence himself specifically denied, in multiple private letters, any personal experience of sex. Letters to E.M. Forster, 21 Dec. 1927; to Robert Graves, 6 Nov. 1928; to F.L. Lucas, 26 March 1929. While there were suggestions that Lawrence had been intimate with Dahoum, who worked with Lawrence at a pre-war archaeological dig in Carchemish,