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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 12:05 GMT
Christie's novel ideas on show
An Orient Express carriage
An Orient Express carriage has been brought to the museum
Detective novelist Agatha Christie has become the focus of an archaeological exhibition, which aims to give an insight into the inspiration for some of her best-selling novels.

The exhibition, which opened at London's British Museum on Thursday, uses artefacts and photos to trace Christie's own trips of discovery to the Middle East and the Orient.

These trips - which Christie made with her husband Max Mallowan - are thought to have sparked the ideas for stories such as Murder on the Orient Express.

Christie wrote 79 crime books - starring either one of her fictional detectives Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot - and continues to be one of the world's best-selling novelists, 25 years after her death.

It shows why she wrote so many crime novels set in the Orient, based on personal experiences which she had in these countries

Charlotte Trumpler, display curator

The exhibition called Agatha Christie, an Archaeology Mystery in Mesopotamia, shows how the writer became interested in archaeology on a visit to Ur in 1928.

This is where she met her second husband Mallowan and became involved in the excavation of the sites that were to make his name.

Curator of the exhibition, Charlotte Trumpler, said she wanted it to show how much Christie had contributed to archaeology.

"It shows how much Agatha Christie has done for archaeology and how important her life in the Orient, in Syria and Iraq, was for her," Ms Trumple said.

"It also shows why she wrote so many crime novels set in the Orient, based on personal experiences which she had in these countries.

"I think the most important thing the exhibition does is contradict the belief many people have that Agatha Christie was just like Miss Marple, living in her home in England and doing lots of work in the garden."


Visitors to the museum will see a variety of films, photographs, posters, postcards and archaeological finds.

Many of the items in the display belonged to the writer herself.

Agatha Christie
Christie went on many digs with her second husband

Included is the Royal Standard of Ur, the murder weapon used in her crime novel Murder in Mesopotamia.

The display also shows Christie's interest in train travel, which also became a source of ideas for her books.

She spent her honeymoon in 1930 on board the Orient Express and continued to use trains to travel to archaeological digs in the following years.

Her novel Murder on the Orient Express sees Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot solve the riddle surrounding a death on board the train as it travels across Europe.

And as a tribute to this association, an original 20s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express sleeping carriage has been installed in the museum forecourt

Christie continued to go on digs with her husband until 1958.

Her role was junior assistant, cleaning and repairing objects, particularly ivories, matching pottery fragments and cataloguing finds.

As well as visiting sites in Ur, the couple went to Nineveh, north eastern Syria, including the site with which he is most closely associated, Nimrud, where a collection of ivories was discovered.

See also:

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Miss Marple actress dies at 92
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