Behold, the Great White Falcon: Gifting & Gulf Archaeology

Bibby’s Looking for Dilmun is one of my favorite archaeology dig books of all time, with Agatha Christie’s Come Tell Me How You Live as a close second. Looking for Dilmun describes the Danish Mission in the Gulf, looking for the “lost” civilization of the Dilmun, eventually located in Bahrain. Bibby’s writing style is excellent and the book is a lot of fun.

Anyway, one of my favorite passages describes the acquisition of a Greenland falcon, a pure white bird, “save for the jet-black tips of its feathers.” Arab falconry is tied to status and to a sense of heritage, and P.V. Glob, the project director, was aware of this. As Bibby states, a white bird such as the Greenland falcon “had never been seen in the Arabian Gulf; it would be–simply–beyond price.”

As the archaeological team traveled by plane from Copenhagen to Bahrain, the Greenland falcon came with the team in the cabin. The team had visa trouble in Beirut and had resigned themselves to staying in the airport overnight, but mentioned the falcon and got checked into a luxury hotel for their trouble.

When Bibby and Glob arrived in Bahrain, the Highness’s falconer showed up in a limo, put the falcon in the back seat and whizzed away. The Danish have been digging in the Gulf ever since. Much to my delight, I found a photo of the selfsame falcon while looking through Moesgaard Museum’s “Glob and the Garden of Eden” website:

Fig  7.Tif

I wonder what happened to that bird.

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

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