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Welcome back for another episode of #DeafHistorySeries !

Nicknamed “Queen of the Mountain,” American archaeologist Theresa B. Goell (1901-1985) spent thirty years searching for the resting tomb of Antiochus I (69-36 BCE), king of Commagene, an ancient Greco-Iranian kingdom. A banner with blue background saying Deaf History Series with Dr. Jaipreet Virdi. Below that are the eposide title: Theresa Goell. On the left is a black and white photo of a smiling white woman.
“I think I’ve been interested in archaeology—or something like it—since I was a child…I was always taking things apart, and my love of working things out with my hands has never left me.”

Born in Manhattan, Goell was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household. black and white photo of a young smiling Jewish woman, with her hair pulled back to a low bun.
In 1920s, while at Radcliffe College, Goell was diagnosed with otosclerosis, a progressive disorder causing hearing loss. She wore hearing aids & learned to lipread. She graduated in 1923, married Cyrus Levinthal & had a son, Jay.

(Pic: some of her hearing aids over the years) Left side of image showing a pile of receipts with the company brand on top (Sonotone). Right side shows three different types of 20th century hearing aids. They are all large and bulky.
The couple moved to Cambridge, UK, but their marriage didn’t last. They divorced in 1932.

Interested in archaeology, Goell she went to work at the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, until political turmoil in the Middle East forced her to return to NYC. A smiling woman wearing a white blouse and a belt on top of it. Her head is wrapped in a scarf.
In 1938, Goell enrolled in the Institute of Fine Arts to study archaeology and would be supervised by Karl Lehmann.

Though encouraging Goell to do archaeology & site work, Lehmann advised her not to pursue a PhD, explaining her age, sex, and deafness were limiting. A color picture of Theresa Goell. She is wearing a denim jacket and a red flannel shirt. Prominently displayed in her left pocket is a 20th century hearing aid.
Lehmann introduced Goell to Nemrud Dağ (Mount Nemrut), a mountain in southeastern Turkey with the burial site of Aniochos I at the summit in a hierothesion (temple-tomb). For 2,000 years, the site remained untouched.

It would become Goell’s obsession. map of the areathe mountain with the temple-tomb at the bottom
It appears that Goell attempted to treat her deafness.

In 1946 surgeon Julius Lempert performed a fenestration operation for Goell’s otosclerosis. Though media reports claimed Lempert’s maneuver could cure 96% of all deafness cases, it didn’t for Goell.
In 1946, upon invitation from archaeologist Hetty Goldman, Goell headed to Turkey, despite being told it was not safe for her as a single, deaf, Jewish woman. Working in a male-dominated profession and travelling to an area where western women were rarely seen was also difficult. black and white photo of Theresa Goell standing outside in a field with rocks and trees. She is wearing a scarf on her head, a long black jacket, and holding a purse.
By 1951, Goell raised funds, obtained permits & hired workers to excavate the site. German epigrapher Friedrich Karl Dörner also obtained permits, forcing the two to collaborate together at Nemrud Dağ.

Over the years, they uncovered colossal monuments and Hellenistic sculpture. black and white photo of Theresa Goell and Friedrich Karl Dörner seated uder a treeworkers at the site. Goell is in the middle of the group, circled in readsome of the sculptures, of faces.a sculpture of a lion
Goell forged connections with the Kurds living at the village of Kahta, providing job opportunities, bringing medicines (especially penicillin), and even mediating disputes between government officials and tribal leaders. She refused a translator and learned Turkish & Kurdish. Theresa Goell at the site standing in front of a tent, surrounded by local Kurds.
The climate at Nemrud Dağ (summer temps could reach 130°F) & the dirt/dust at the excavation site caused Goell’s hearing aids to act up. She regularly wrote to her hearing aid dealer requiring repairs & extra batteries. During one trip, she even packed 3 hearing aids to be safe. Thesea goell sitting a desk at the site, working on a typewriter. She is surrounded by some of the statues at the tomb.
As Goell approached old age, her hearing & health worsened.

In a 1976 visit to Germany, she became paralyzed; doctors found a tumor on her spine and performed surgery. This complicated her ability to continue working at the site & she never finished her archaeological report. Theresa Goell standing in a balcony overlooking a city. She is wearing a hat, squinting, and holding on to her hearing aid.
Theresa Goell died in 1985 from cancer, never having located the tomb of Antiochus I.

At her wishes, her brother spread her ashes on the top of Nemrud Dağ. 11 years later, archaeologist Donald Sanders completed her excavation report. Theresa Goell smiling at the bottom of the mountain.
Her story was featured in a 2005 documentary directed by her niece, Martha Goell Lubell, *Queen of the Mountain* as well as a 2001 episode of History’s Mysteries.

For further reading:

David L. Browman, CULTURAL NEGOTIATIONS (2013)

Donald H. Sanders & David WJ Gill’s chapter in BREAKING GROUND: Pioneering Women Archaeologists (2004)

Miguel John Versluys: VISUAL STYLE & CONSTRUCTING IDENTITY IN THE HELLENISTIC WORLD (2017) A Kurdish man standing at the dig site, working on cleaning one of the statues. Behind him is a view of the mountain area.
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