|Directed by:||Martha Goell Lubell||Rating:||TV-G|
|Release Date:||2005||Running Time:||56 mins.|
|More Info:||New York Times review: "American heroine"||Category:||World Jewry|
No man had ever dared to dig beneath the Sanctuary of Nemrud Dagh in 1947, but a middle-class Jewish mother from Brooklyn was up to the challenge. Queen of the Mountain tells the story of Theresa Goell, the woman who defied expectations to make one of the biggest archaeological accomplishments of the century.
“People usually walk around a waterfall—I would walk down a waterfall. People usually walk over a bridge—I walked under a bridge,” says Theresa, describing the rambunctious childhood that made her a pioneer.
Queen of the Mountain explores the challenges Theresa faced as a strong woman working in a field dominated by men. Using archival footage, family photographs, oral histories, commentary from her friends and her own letters, the documentary explains how Theresa’s “bull dog tenacity” drove her to the Middle East in hopes of discovering buried treasures and ancient secrets.
Throughout her life, Theresa challenged the status quo, redefining a woman’s place in society. Theresa refused to comply with her society’s expectations, overcoming cultural and familial biases — and even physical handicaps — to achieve her dream. “She was self motivated. That was a terrible thing in those days,” recalls a friend.
Born at the end of the Victorian Age, she was forced to marry a man of her father’s choosing and was expected to live simply as a wife and mother, but Theresa had other ideas. In 1926, while studying at Cambridge, she fell in love with archeology, at the same time her marriage fell apart. After divorcing her husband and leaving her son, she moved to Jerusalem to study ancient ruins.
Theresa felt that it was her “duty” to pursue her passion. She believed a docile existence was no existence and wrote “I’m as good as dead in Brooklyn.”
As a humorous example of how much she had to overcome, Theresa recalls what happened when she worked as a draftsman in the Brooklyn naval yard during World War II. Her presence was enough to make heads turn. “I was the only woman among 1,200 men,” she remembers. Because there was no toilet for women at the naval yard, Theresa had to walk across the yard to the Red Cross station to use the facilities. “They thought I was causing a labor problem,” she says, frustrated, but with a sense of humor, “because every time I walked to the Red Cross station every one of the 1,200 men stopped to whistle at me.”
Theresa learned about Nemrud Dagh – a shrine to King Antiochus — before the war, but it wasn’t until 1947 that she was able to travel to the site. The difficulty of the terrain and obscurity of the location had kept other archeologists away. With no maps, she set out without an entourage, and just a child to carry her duffle bag.
King Antiochus’s shrine had also slipped through the cracks of archeological interest because it blended classical and oriental traditions. Classicalists thought it was too oriental and Orientalists thought it too classical. But for a pioneer like Theresa, however, this blending of different traditions was a perfect fit.
Theresa proved to be a revolutionary archeologist in a number of ways. Not only did she recognize the significance of ancient ruins that had been neglected, she also insisted her team use modern technological advances. And, perhaps most importantly, she helped pave the way for future female archeologists.
This singular woman combined a mother’s concern for the people around her – the locals called her “annim” (mother) – with a leader’s inflexible drive to win the respect of her workers. All those who worked or lived at Nemrud Dagh agreed: Theresa Goell was the queen of the mountain.