Egypt in South Africa

Sir Flinders Petrie

William Mathew Flinders Petrie, or Flinders Petrie, was the first person to conduct in-depth studies on how the pyramids were constructed. The report that he published between 1881 and 1882 still provides much of the basic data regarding the pyramid plateau used today. In 1883 he published a book, The pyramids and temples of Giza, and on the strength of this publication he was selected by the Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF) to excavate in Egypt.
 
In the early years Flinders desperately needed funds for excavations. Amelia Edwards, journalist, author and patron of the Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF) became a strong supporter. Another benefactor was Jesse Hawarth, a wealthy Manchester businessman, who preferred to stay an anonymous donor for a long time before Petrie discovered his identity. Hawarth was not interested in starting a collection of his own, but passed the collection on to the Manchester Museum.
 
Amelia Edwards died on 15 April 1892. Her tombstone bears the Ankh symbol – a symbol for life – the same symbol found on Petrie’s tombstone. By terms of her will the chair of Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London (UCL) was established with Flinders Petrie as the first incumbent. One stipulation of the fund was that classes should be open to students of either sex, making UCL the only academic institution which admitted women as students in those days. Through Edwards’ generosity Flinders could train many of the best archaeologists of the day.
 
Becoming a professor of archaeology was the ideal position for Petrie as he could excavate for half the year (winter) and then return to England and teach for six months. Apart from Egyptian archaeology, Petrie set a standard in Palestine as well – the meticulous excavation and recording of tombs.
 
In 1886 Petrie became disenchanted with the EEF and he resigned which meant that he did not have financial backing for his work in Egypt. At this time he became involved with the geneticist Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin. Galton commissioned Petrie to take photographs of different ‘racial types’ that were present in enemies of the Ancient Egyptians.
 
In his lifetime Petrie received honorary degrees from various academic institutions like Oxford, Edinburgh, Strasbourg and Cambridge and in July 1923 Flinders Petrie was knighted for services to British archaeology and Egyptology.
 
For Petrie’s 70th birthday friends and colleagues decided to raise money for a bronze medal to be called the Petrie Medal ‘for distinguished work in archaeology’, Petrie being the first recipient. Thereafter the medal was awarded every three to four years with well-known recipients like Sir Arthur Evans (Knossos), Sir Leonard Woolley, Prof JD Beazley and Sir Mortimer Wheeler.
 

 
In 1934 Petrie sat for his portrait by Philip Alexius de László. It was presented to UCL for the Professors’ Common Room. A second portrait went to the National Portrait Gallery and a third one was given to the family, which now hangs in the Petrie Collection.

Jesse Hawarth, a wealthy Manchester businessman who preferred to stay an anonymous donor before Petrie discovered his identity, donated his collections to the Manchester Museum.
Flinders Petrie published The pyramids and temples of Giza in 1882 which still provides much of the basic data regarding the pyramid plateau used today. Thereafter Petrie was selected to excavate in Egypt.

Flinders Petrie was knighted for services to British archaeology and Egyptology in 1923. Friends raised money to produce the Petrie Medal for distinguished work in archaeology, Petrie being the first recipient.

The Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archeaology position at UCL, where Petrie was first incumbent, was established by Amelia Edwards, patron of the EEF.