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Egypt
Origins

WILLIAM MATTHEW FLINDERS PETRIE

The Father of Egyptian Archaeology
1853 - 1942

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM DIFFERENT STAGES OF LIFE

(Most of these photographs are from Flinders Petrie: A Life in Archaeology,
Margaret S. Drower, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London, 1985. A 2nd edition is  from Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.)

12 years, c. 1865

Outside Giza rock tomb in
1880 where he lived
during the Pyramid Survey

c. 1886

Flinders and Hilda Urlin about the
time of their marriage in 1897.
He was fifteen years her senior.

Hilda and Flinders, 1903

 

At Abydos, c. 1915

In his Museum, University
College, London, c. 1923.

At the opening of his first
Palestinian Exhibition at
University College, July 1930,
his jubilee year.

Striding across the desert at
Abydos in 1922, age 69.

Sir and Lady Petrie about
to start their Syrian tour in
October, 1934. They slept in
and lived out of the bus.

Flinders and Hilda in the
garden of the American
School of Oriental Research
in Jerusalem

Photographing at
Tell el Ajjul in 1938.

In the hospital during
his last days.

 

1/4 - The Man Who Discovered Egpyt (playlist)

 

The following is taken from the Web Page of the Palestine Education Fund

Grandson of Captain Matthew Flinders, explorer of the coasts of Australia, he was judged too frail to attend school and was educated at home by his parents. In his youth, he began studying coins and weights as a boy. With his father he took up surveying, modifying available instruments to make them more precise. His only formal education was a University Extension Course in mathematics.

Under the influence of the pyramidology theories of Prof. Piazzi Smyth, he went to Egypt in 1880 to survey the pyramids of Gizeh. Petrie's measurements proved that Piazzi Smyth's theories were based on a logical fallacy, but he had become 'hooked' on the archaeology of Egypt. With two brief exceptions, he spent the rest of his career studying it. These brief exceptions were the periods he spent excavating in Palestine.

Although these interludes were brief, they were highly significant for Levantine archaeology. The first interlude was a six-week season of excavations at Tell el-Hesy (now transcribed as Tell el-Hesi) in the spring of 1890. During this short period he introduced into Palestine the concept that a tell is a manmade mound of successive, superimposed 'cities'. He established the dating of these 'cities' by means of their associated ceramic assemblage and of the cross-dating of these assemblages with reference to similar finds made in Egyptian contexts. Having thus laid the foundation for all future work in Levantine archaeology, he returned to Egypt, where he excavated for the next thirty years.

His second period in Palestine, 1927-1942, was at the end of his career. At this time he investigated 'Egypt over the Border', the frontier sites between Egypt and Canaan. He excavated a series of sites on the lower reaches of the Wadi Ghazzeh, Tell Jemmeh, Tell Far'a, Tell Ajjul, and Sheikh Zowayd. These sites revealed remains dating from the Chalcolithic to the Hellenistic periods.

Petrie's most significant contribution to archaeology was in 1899 when he developed and applied a method of statistical analysis to the material from the prehistoric cemeteries at Naqada, Hu (Diospolis Parva), and Abadiya. Such methods were not applied again until the 1970s, at which time sophisticated computer programs were used, where Petrie had used slips of card.

 

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