BAR 37:04, Jul/Aug 2011
Amateur Archaeologist Agatha Christie Cleaned Nimrud Ivories
The popular mystery-novelist Agatha Christie had a knack for weaving together colorful characters with serpentine plot lines, but she also extended her skills to the intricacies of processing ancient Assyrian artifacts. Christie assisted her archaeologist husband Max Mallowan at his excavation at Nimrud in Iraq by cleaning ivories they discovered—using her face cream and a very thin knitting needle on the delicate ivory carvings from elephant tusks.
Christie’s numerous trips to the Middle East provided the inspiration for several of her books that drew on the people and experiences she encountered on her travels. A delay on the Orient Express on her way back from Nineveh later became the setting for one of her most famous books, Murder on the Orient Express. Her firsthand knowledge of sites in the region provided the background for Death on the Nile (Egypt), Murder in Mesopotamia (Ur) and Appointment with Death (Petra).