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June 2011

two stalwarts in the history of archaeology had a chance meeting.

Petrie and Pitt-Rivers O

n Tuesday 22 February 1881, in the shadow of the Great Pyramid of Giza,

Pitt-Rivers had just taken a Thomas Cook holiday in Egypt following his inheritance of the Rushmore Estate. Although he had previously travelled overseas to several destinations in Europe and had also visited North America, Egypt was the most exotic location he had ever ventured to. In the context of the object typologies Pitt-Rivers created to explore worldwide interconnections, his selection of the Nile Valley as tourist destination is understandable. As he wrote in 1875 in his paper On Early Modes of Navigation, Egypt was for him “...the cradle of western civilisation, certainly the land in which western culture first began to put forth its strong shoots.”

His visit coincided with that of a young W.M. Flinders Petrie, the future ‘father of Egyptian archaeology’, who was also in the country for the first time undertaking a detailed survey of the monuments on the Giza Plateau. Writing about the encounter in his journal (now in the Griffith Institute, Oxford), Petrie noted that perhaps it was “differences of dress and whiskers” that accounted for the fact neither individual recognised the other at first. Pitt Rivers expressed his approval of Petrie’s work and promised to pass by again on his return to Cairo. This pleased Petrie immensely for as he recorded he was “very glad to get hold of him [Mr Loftie] and Pitt- Rivers… as I can shew them things in situ which strike me.”


Although there is no evidence that they did meet again in Egypt they certainly remained in correspondence until the General’s death in 1900 as seven short letters in the Salisbury and Wiltshire Museum attest. These document Petrie’s offers of material from his excavations in Egypt to Pitt- Rivers in order to enrich both his collections at Farnham and in Oxford, including such items as mummies, flint knives and Egyptian pottery. In return Pitt- Rivers supplied Petrie with drawings of objects in his collection, which Petrie used in his own publications, and donations to support his ‘Egyptian Research Account’, set up by Petrie in order to educate students in the practice of archaeology in Egypt.

Rivers at his Rushmore estate. In September 1898, for instance, Petrie took his wife, Hilda Petrie, to call on Pitt-Rivers, a visit that she recounted in a letter to her sister. She described the aging General as “A great old man with a presence, and long bushy beard, who rules absolutely, in a great domain which spreads all round him for many miles.” The Petries spent the morning exploring Rushmore’s treasures and the afternoon with Pitt-Rivers himself browsing his “splendidly lighted and arranged” collection in the Farnham Museum.


It is evident from such correspondence and accounts that Petrie held Pitt-Rivers in high

Friends’ Talks and Special Events

On 15 June we welcome Professor Hugh Kennedy of SOAS to explain Why Iran is Not an Arab Country. This is followed by an opportunity to visit the Ultimate Open Day at the Frilford/ Marcham Dig on Sunday 24 July between 10.00am and 4.00pm and tour the site, feel the artefacts and join the Roman Army! There will also be an exhibition of archaeological models, craft stalls and refreshments.

Special Event, Friday 9 September:

The Ethiopian Garima Gospels Bookbinder and manuscript conservator Lester Capon will give an illustrated talk on the conservation of the Garima Gospels. These brilliantly illuminated manuscripts dating from the 5th

to the 11th Ethiopian Icon, 17th century (detail)

remote monastery of Abuna Garima, in northern Ethiopia. At the Museum, normal time of 18.30.

On 28 September, Dr. Renée Hirschon, Senior Research Fellow at St Peter’s College, Oxford and former chair of the Social Anthropology department at the University of the Aegean, will be talking on Commemorating the Dead in Greek Orthodox Tradition.

Beatrice Clayre spent 5 years in Sabah and Sarawak in the 1960s and has been returning regularly since 1990 to record one of the endangered languages there. She has also collected a wide range of crafts from this area and on 12 October her talk to the Friends is entitled Sarawak in the 1960s and Today.

centuries have been kept in the

Ten years of excavations at Marcham come to a close in July and at our November talk, Dr Megan Price, dig education officer and Friend of the Pitt Rivers Museum, will be revealing the highlights of this fascinating Romano-British site.

n addition to correspondence there is also evidence that Petrie called upon Pitt-

A young Petrie outside the rock-cut tomb he lived in at Giza, 1880. Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

regard and the General was undoubtedly an early influence on Petrie’s own fieldwork approaches and thinking. Writing a few years after Pitt-Rivers’ death Petrie launched a scathing attack on a fellow Egyptologist’s approach to digging in the field, noting that “if you look at Pitt-Rivers’ Excavations at Bokerley Dyke you will know what excavating means.”

Alice Stevenson, Researcher in World Archaeology, Pitt Rivers Museum

Right: Watercolour image from page 1194 (Volume 3) of Pitt-Rivers’s catalogue showing one of the Predynastic pottery vessels sent to him by Petrie. (Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, General Pitt-Rivers: Catalogues of his Collections, MS Add.9455.)

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