Treasure Seekers: Edge of the Orient

Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Pam Caragol, Ann Carroll

It was the birthplace of civilization,

now a barren and exotic landscape,

alluring in its mystery.

For thousands of years,

the Middle East

had guarded its secrets.

But by the 19th century

it had become a battleground

for competing empires

eager for political control

and archeological treasure.

It was a time when archeology

was intertwined with espionage.

When politics was called

"The Great Game".

Into this arena stepped

two remarkable Britons

a young adventurer named

Austin Henry Layard,

who uncovered the treasures of

a fabulous lost civilization,

and a brilliant politician

named Gertrude Bell,

the "brains" behind

Lawrence of Arabia.

Both would follow their dreams into

the desert

changing it forever.

In the spring of 1840,

an intrepid young Englishman found

his way to the ancient land

between the Tigris and

Euphrates Rivers, now part of Iraq.

He was on his way towards India

to make his fortune.

But there was something about

this desert that caught hold of him

and wouldn't let him go.

More than 2,000 years ago,

two mighty empires had ruled

this land:
Babylonia and Assyria.

Their cities were fabled

for their opulence.

Their power rivaled

only by each other.

The Assyrians were

fearsome warriors.

Eight centuries before Christ,

they had marched on the Israelites.

City after city fell before them.

Even Jerusalem was under siege.

Thousands of captives were taken,

immortalized as the

Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

And all this was written

in the Bible.

But now almost all traces of these

great civilizations had disappeared.

There was nothing here but desert

as far as the eye could see.

Yet in this wasteland, Austin Henry

Layard saw the chance

of a lifetime.

In the decade to come,

he would uncover the secrets

of this barren desert,

and reveal the truth

in a Bible story.

When he saw the mounds and saw

this area, he saw opportunity.

He saw opportunity for fame,

and he was looking as a way

to make his name and his life.

From his earliest childhood,

Austin Henry Layard was

an unusual young man.

Most of his youth was spent

in Florence

where he fell in love with

that ancient city's history and art.

Formal schooling was not for him,

but he knew almost every painting in

the galleries and

churches of the city.

The rest of his time he spent

dreaming, lost in stories of adventure.

His favorite was a book only recently

translated into English.

The work in which I took the

greatest delight was the Arabian Nights.

My imagination became

so much excited by it,

that I thought and dreamt of

little else.

The Arabian Nights have had no little

influence upon my life and career.

To them, I attribute that love of

travel and adventure,

which took me to the East.

Ever since Napoleon rediscovered

the wonders of Egypt

at the turn of the century,

Europeans had been captivated by

the exoticism of the East.

From the time he was a boy,

Austin Henry Layard

fell under its spell.

His family tried to make

a lawyer of him.

Layard hated the law, but he stuck it

out and passed his exams at 22.

Casting about, he learned of a

possible job in Ceylon,

a British colony

halfway around the world.

It was the chance

he had been waiting for.

Layard found another traveler

to accompany him

in the overland route

through the Ottoman Empire.

In 1839, this was a journey

well off the beaten track,

which could take more than a year.

The two men wore Turkish dress

to assure safe passage,

and lived out of their saddlebags.

They made their way down into Turkey,

the gateway to another world.

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Ann Carroll

Ann Carroll is a camogie player. twice an All Ireland inter-county medalist and the outstanding personality in the first decade of the history of the All-Ireland Senior Club Camogie Championship winning medals with both St Patrick’s, Glengoole from Tipperary and St Paul’s from Kilkenny. She played inter-county camogie for both Tipperary and Kilkenny and Interprovincial camogie for both Munster and Leinster. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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