Everyone starts a new year with good intentions. Tinco Lycklama couldn’t know how 1867 was going to look like. But, he certainly had a plan. Thanks to Tinco’s own travel account, we know exactly where he was. Baghdad, Tehran, Mosul, Aleppo… places that we hear so much about in the news today. Even though we know where Tinco was, we’re not always sure what he did there. But that makes it interesting, of course. Let’s have a look at how we’re going to walk in Tinco’s footsteps in the Middle East, exactly 150 years later.
Tinco starts the year in Baghdad, where he is spending the whole winter. In the spring, he makes excursions to ancient sites such as Babylon. He then journeys back to Persia and its capital Tehran. In the autumn, he travels east towards Mosul, in northern Iraq. From there, he travels through Kurdistan towards Aleppo, where he will spend the next winter.
Spying in Baghdad?
Yes, we asked the same conspiratorial question about Tinco’s stay in Tehran in 1866 and his visit to the Shahrestanak military encampment. The fact is, we still have no clue about what Tinco did in the Persian capital. For sure, he tells us about the Bazaar, about the parties at the foreign legations, about how wonderfully he was received by Persian dignitaries. But, besides being a welcome and somewhat eccentric tourist, what else did Tinco do there?
In Baghdad, the same question arises. Remember that Tinco arrived in modern Iraq’s capital on December 4th, 1866. He is looking forward to his visits to ancient places like Babylon, Ctesiphon, and Samarra. But, he sets foot outside Baghdad only four months after his arrival. Why wait such a long time? Why spend so much time in Baghdad?
Well, he visited the military arsenal, and he is keen on telling that, if it weren’t for the special permission of the viceroy of Baghdad, Mehmed Namik Pasha (1804-1892), he would never have gotten a private tour of Baghdad’s military secrets. Also consider that the viceroy, who later continues to occupy high positions in the Ottoman Empire, not only delivers special passports to Tinco, but also military escorts so that he can move around in safety.
Other weird things… Nowhere else in his 2,200-page travel account does he give such rich information about the local economy. Indeed, he prints tables that show the trade figures for cotton, shoes, tea, coats… you name it. Fair enough, Tinco was probably proud that he was the first European to publish such information about this particular timeframe. But still… why would he do that? If you were keen to dig for artefacts, wouldn’t you head straight for the desert?
When Tinco finally leaves Bagdad in May 1867, he returns to Persia. The only thing he tells us about his additional three weeks in Tehran (in August), is that he went there to organise the shipment of the items he had collected. Why didn’t he do so a year earlier, in 1866? Sure enough, there were interesting places to see on the way between Baghdad and Tehran – such as Kermanshah and Ecbatane. But, he could have gone there, and then head straight north towards Kirkuk. Instead, he makes an 800-kilometer detour via Tehran. Easy by car – not easy on horseback!
Questions, questions, questions… One wish for 2017: to find some answers!
Babylon, Ctesiphon, Samarra, Baqubah
So, Tinco stays the whole winter in Bagdad, and then he spends the single month of April on visiting all the ancient sites and many interesting Islamic shrines. Four quiet months to “read and learn” (as he says himself), and then a hectic 4-5 weeks sightseeing and digging for artefacts. Whatever Tinco’s ulterior motives, his encounters with antiquity are fascinating.
Tinco belongs to the first Europeans who ever put their hands in the sands of Babylon to dig for ancient statues, seals, pottery… Prior to 1800, the site had never received much attention, as the exact location of Babylon was actually confounded with other places, including Baghdad itself.
Tinco amasses over 200 objects from Babylon. At least, that’s the number of objects that made it to his museum in his native Beetsterzwaag – and later ended up at his museum in Cannes – according to the original inventories. For years after Tinco’s trip, his collection of Babylonian artefacts did attract the attention of scholars in England, France and Italy. But, by and large, the collection disappeared into oblivion. Even today, very little is known about Tinco’s Babylonian collection. But, we are about to change that.
Making new royal Qajar friends in Kermanshah and Ecbatana
By June 4th, 1867, Tinco crosses the Ottoman border and journeys back into Persia. He stays over two weeks at Kermanshah, and then continues to Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) where he spends another ten days. Finally, he arrives back at Tehran, where he rents a house for the month – coincidentally becoming a neighbour of the Russian legation.
As said, we know close to nothing about his second stay at Tehran. But, at Kermanshah and Ecbatana, he acquaints many people and becomes good friends with Kadjar dignitaries such as Emam Qoli Mirza, ‘Emad-ed-Dowleh’ (1814-1875), the governor of Kermanshah and uncle of the shah, and Ali Quli Mirza, ‘Sarim ud-Daula’ (xxxx-1872). The latter was an avid photographer and took several pictures of Tinco (which we are trying to locate). At Hamadan, he gets acquainted with Abdosamad Mirza, Ezz ed Dowleh (1843-1929), . Tinco will meet again in 1873 with both Emam Qoli Mirza and Abdosamad Mirza, when they are members of the entourage of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar during his first European visit. Abdosamad Mirza, ‘Ezz ed Dowleh’, even comes and visit Tinco in Cannes.
Moving into Assyria – Kirkuk, Erbil, Mosul
Towards the end of August 1867, Tinco Lycklama finally leaves Persia, and re-enters modern Iraq. In fact, this is the region of ancient Assyria, which was also part of the Ottoman Empire.
Tinco reaches Kirkuk by October 13. The next four weeks, he also visits Erbil and Mosul. He talks about the Kurds and the Yazidis. Given the situation in this region today, Tinco’s visits are especially interesting, as it gives us a detailed view of how these places once were.
At Mosul, Tinco also walks in the footsteps of a handful of earlier archaeologists who explored the ancient sites of Nineveh, Nimrud, and Khorsabad. Another occasion for Tinco to dig in the sand and enlarge his collection of artefacts.
Crossing Kurdistan towards Aleppo
Tinco Lycklama leaves Mosul on November 11. During four weeks, he travels straight through the heartland of Kurdistan, where he arrives on December 12. During his 1865-68 ‘grand tour’, there are four places where Tinco really settles down and stays for a longer period of time: Tiflis (winter of 1865-66), Tehran (summer of 1866), Baghdad (winter of 1866-67), and finally Aleppo. His stay in the war-torn Syrian city of today lasted four months.
In many ways, we are eager on exploring Tinco’s Aleppo. But, there are so many things to be learned from Tinco’s visits to Mesopotamia and Assyria, and we chose to follow his chronology. As readers can see, 1867 is a promising year for Tinco, and we’re looking forward in sharing with you our discoveries. Enjoy!