Several women, during those retrograde years of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when most of them were denied a university education, let alone a degree, managed to excel in the newly founded archaeological science of Egyptology.
Amelia Edwards was one of these pioneering females. She began her career as a novelist and wrote a successful ghost story called ‘the phantom coach.’ Amelia’s trip up the Nile in 1873 changed her life. She became transfixed by ancient Egypt and its preservation and as a result co-founded the Egypt Exploration Society.
It was this society which funded Flinders Petrie who, among other finds, discovered the temple of Bastet, the cat goddess.
Petrie, who was born in Maryon road, Charlton London SE, developed a more systematic approach to archaeological excavation with emphasis on stratification of objects found.
Among his students was Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
Petrie expanded the collection started by Amelia Edwards with the help of his assistants (one of which was Fletcher who bequeathed his collection of keyboards to Fenton house, mentioned in my recent post.)
Other early women Egyptologists include Hilda, Petrie’s wife, Margaret Murray, Agatha Christie, Bertha Porter, Alessandra Bobbi, Anna Anderson Morton, Dorothy Eady, Winifred Brunton, Mary Brodrick and Janet Gourlay. It seems that Egyptology truly helped the cause of women’s equality and their right to undertake research.
The Petrie museum in London’s Bloomsbury area cannot compete with the British museum in terms of mummies but it does offer a much more intimate insight into ancient Egyptian life, including the earliest piece of clothing found anywhere in the world.
Among the eighty thousand plus pieces in its collection are still-untranslated papyri, late Roman era mummy portraits, votive statues, pottery, and beaded jewellery.
I especially liked the beaded dress of a dancer from over four thousand years ago and felt it would still look very good on someone today.
While there we treated by an excellent story-telling Dr. Johnston to perhaps the oldest Egyptian story to have come down to us. It’s about a sailor wrecked on a mysterious island where he meets a serpent who…..(but I won’t spoil this tale for you. You can find it, anyway, on the web).
The Petrie museum is an excellent antidote to the vast and often crowded halls of the British museum and well worth a visit.
For further details consult the museum’s web site at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/culture/petrie-museum