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Old 10-11-2014, 06:54 PM   #1
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Wendell Phillips, 1950's archaeologist

Has anyone else here heard of Wendell Phillips?

I had a roommate in college (University of California at Berkeley) who was studying paleontology, and he talked about Phillips, who was the famous "old grad" of the department.

Phillips graduated from the University in 1943 with a degree in paleontology.

He did not have much money but was able to talk people into putting up money for an archaeological expedition to Yemen (South Arabia) in the early 1950's to look for the site of the legendary city of Marib, the Queen of Sheba's capital.

His expedition made some significant discoveries but was attacked by tribesmen and had to leave the area.

Phillips then became friends with the Sultan of Muscat and Oman and received oil leases from him, making Phillips a wealthy man.

He published the book Qataban and Sheba about his adventures in 1955, which I am now reading.

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Old 10-18-2014, 10:21 PM   #2
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Finished Qataban and Sheba!

Wendell Phillips and his expedition first head for Beihan in (then) South Arabia, near Aden. They spend some time digging in Qataban at an ancient city Timna. This "dig" goes well, they uncover some artifacts, and the local officials and residents are supportive.

However, they have to pay a courtesy call on the Sultan...
In Tarim, a city of aristocrats and fine homes, we found Saiyid Jemalalleil's mansion with electric lights, running water, Western-style furniture, baths, toilets, and telephones. This city is the religious heart of the Hadhramaut.

Saiyid Jemalalleil spread before us the most elborate of the banquets we had enjoyed.

I turned to George Farrier. "Look George," I said. "Some of this food may not appear too appetizing to you, but don't let American prestige down. Dig in and make out that you're enjoying it, will you?"

George nodded, but at that moment a plate was set before him.
"Eyeballs!", he gulped. "Eyeballs and--"
"Yes," I replied, smiling, "as honored guests we get the best."
Later they encounter...
Among the many problems that were neither archaeological nor medical with which we had to cope the most distracting was the invasion of the spiders.

A new word should be invented for these creatures in Beihan, for the word "spiders" calls to mind something from a quarter of an inch to two inches, at most, in diameter. Our spiders were not of this puny race. Several of them were measured by accurate instruments proving them to be more than seven and a half inches across.

The biggest of all could not be measured, for he was a squashed mass by the time a ruler arrived, but I would swear he was close to nine inches. Their bodies were round, fat, and hairy. Their legs were the size of matchsticks-- the big kind. And there were scores of them.

I remember the time I was sitting at my desk discussing the day's work with Charles Inge. Suddenly a huge shadow crossed the wall on our left, and I looked up to see a monstrous spider passing within a few inches of Charles's head. I yelled and came up with my Colt Peacemaker, while poor Charles dived for the other side of the room, undoubtedly more afraid of the six-shooter than of the spider.
The group then heads for the Saint Catherine Monastery in Sinai where they photograph ancient documents.

Phillips then gets permission to visit Yemen and excavate the site of Marib, which was supposedly the Queen of Sheba's capital around BC 950.

The group arrives by truck and starts to work, when they are immediately harassed by local officials and soldiers.

The threats from the soldiers get so bad that the group decides to abandon their equipment ($200,000 worth in 1952) and leave. The description of the escape is quite thrilling, right out of a movie.

Phillips later gets permission from the Sultan of Oman to run an expedition there, this one proceeds normally.

Wendell Phillips then gives a short description of how he got started in promoting expeditions and talking wealthy men and women into contributing money and supplies. He is quite a hustler.

Last edited by WilliamBoyd8 : 10-18-2014 at 10:37 PM.
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