In 1907 I published a work entitled "The Egyptian Sudan," in which I gave some account of the history of that country in ancient and modern times, and a description of the excavations which I had made on the pyramid-fields of Napata and the Island of Meroe, during the years 1899-1905, for the Trustees of the British Museum. After the publication of that work, I decided to put on record, when circumstances should permit, a narrative of my three Missions to Mesopotamia in 1887, 1888 and 1890, and of my many Missions to Egypt to excavate and to acquire antiquities for the Trustees of the British Museum, and the present volume is the result of this decision. At the suggestion of friends I have prefaced my narrative by some notes on the influences and circumstances which led me to study the ancient languages of Western Asia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, and determined the work of my life in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the British Museum.
In the present volume, as in my work on the Egyptian Sudan, the narrative is based on series of letters written to my wife. With one exception, these letters all reached home, thanks to the arrangements that I made personally with the Tattarîyîn, or Turkish postal couriers; and my note-books furnish the main facts in the period covered by the missing letter.
In the course of my narrative, I have often given the names of people who have helped me in my work abroad.