Flinders Petrie: A Life in Archaeology - Margaret S. (Stefana) DrowerLondon: Victor Gollancz, 1985, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Very Good Dust Wrapper. Gently faded at the spine of the dust wrapper, less so to the boards. Edges of the text block lightly spotted. Gift inscription to the first blank. Text complete, clean and tight otherwise.
Contains: Black & white photographs; Colour photographs; Black & white drawings; Maps; References; Glossary; Appendices ;
From the cover: “Flinders Petrie can well be claimed as the Father of Modern Egyptology — and indeed as one of the pioneers of modern archaeological method. For fourteen hundred years, from the fall of Rome to Napoleon’s expedition of 1798, Egypt had been little more than a myth. Then, in the early nineteenth century, explorers and the first diggers began to unearth the wonders of the ancient past. Until Petrie’s day, however, the emphasis was upon the large monuments, and the treasures that would form a splendid display in museums — the sculptures, the jewellery, the sarcophagi. Petrie began to change all that.
He didn’t often reach the headlines: unlike Schliemann, he didn’t make a for-tune, claim to have looked upon Agamemnon, or load his wife with the gold of Troy; unlike Carter, he didn’t discover Ali Baba’s cave, or inherit an ancient curse. He just spent most of his lifetime slogging away in deserts, digging, sorting, transcribing, cataloguing, interpreting. And cheerfully enduring all kinds of hardships, his life in camp being particularly spartan.
Of course, he did make spectacular finds: a lifesize statue of the Pharaoh of the Exodus; a superb collection of painted portraits on mummy cases; a Homer manuscript. But his main concern was with the mass of much smaller items, and not least the sherds. Known as ‘Father of Pots’, he was the first to appreciate the value of pottery in historical dating, and of keeping an orderly record of the progress of a dig. Not surprisingly, therefore, he was often at furious odds with rivals in the field: at Abydos with Amelineau, whose only interest was in complete stone jars of marketable value, and who boasted that he had smashed those he could not carry away; with Maspero and Naville for barbarously mangling a pyramid at El Kula, which they had vainly tried to break into (“a sad example of how not to dig a pyramid”); with Brugsch at the Cairo Museum who, caring only for display, threw away what he regarded as the minor items of one of Petrie’s most exciting discoveries, the oldest jewellery found in Egypt (“a museum is a dangerous place”, Petrie commented).
This is, then, the definitive biography of Sir Flinders Petrie, very thoughtfully researched, drawing upon many sources; and it is at the same time a fascinating history of the progress of Egyptian archaeology. Starting with his boyhood — when, delightfully, he was already a budding scholar — through his many years with the Egyp-tian Exploration Fund, his friendship with the indomitable Amelia Edwards, his ideal marriage with a remarkable woman who shared all his enthusiasms, his activities in this country (not least as the first Professor of Egyptology in England), the years of honours (but “I can’t bear being Jubilated ” he said), to his peaceful death in Jerusalem.
T. E. Lawrence, who was one of his students, commented that “a Petrie dig is a thing with a flavour of its own”; the same remark could apply to his whole life as it is celebrated in this splendid biography.”