A short biography of Lady Hester Stanhope (1776-1839), someone I’d not actually heard of but who Wikipedia describes as “a British socialite, adventurer and traveler.” She sounds rather fantastic, if not a little bit eccentric.
As she traveled throughout the Middle East, Lady Hester was received royally whereever she and her party went. She was received in state by the Pasha, Mehmet Ali, in Cairo. She traveled to Jerusalem and Acre, and other little known citites. When she reached Damascus, Lady Hester refused to wear the veil or change out of her men’s clothes to enter the city, despite the warnings she received that it was an anti-Christian community. Instead she rode in, unveiled at midday. The people of Damascus didn’t know what hit them, but their amazement turned to enthusiasm and she was hailed as a Queen.
An interesting, very headstrong woman and a very good read but one that only briefly touches on a part of her archaeological work. For more on that, though, another article on Lady Hester Stanhope well worth a read is this one: Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope: The First Modern Excavator of the Holy Land..
The start to Stanhope’s excavation began when she came into possession of a “curious document”, which was a supposed medieval Italian manuscript that described the location of a hidden treasure buried under mosque in Ashkelon by Christians. Apparently, the manuscript was very detailed and Ashkelon was well-known as the ruins of an ancient port city. Stanhope didn’t merely march into Ashkelon and begin ripping the place apart. She submitted a request to the Ottoman government for permission and was granted the right to excavate the area.