Sir William Mathew Flinders Petrie

Taking a small break from Ancient Egypt, I have come to the decision that saying a few words on some of the Egyptologists who contributed so much to our knowledge on the Ancient Egyptians and their lives, is absolutely necessary.

When one is studying Egyptology, one name keeps coming up, the name of the man known as the ‘father of Egyptian Araeology’: Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (mentioned in the previous post). I couldn’t continue using his name in my blog without saying a few words about the man himself. Aside lending my college the use of his name, the Petrie Institute of the University College of London where both I and my cousin attended, he was also a remarkable man. Mad, but remarkable.

There are many stories on Petrie and his eccentricities, such as forcing all his students to run up and down the stairs every morning to get the ‘juices’ flowing, but he truly was one of the most remarkable men of his time. He succeeded in processing a large amount of data without the use of a computer! (There were no computers at the time, but in my opinion even if there were he still wouldn’t have used them). He loved digging not only in Egypt but also in Palestine (Israel today) which he loved so much that he wished to be buried on Mt. Zion. It wasn’t unusual for an Egyptologist to be interested in Palestine, for both areas are connected throughout history (even today). What makes Petrie stand out even more amongst the Egyptology community is the fact that he is buried without his head!

I heard this story many times and yet I am still amazed by it. Around the beginning of the 20th century there was a keen interest in the checking of brains. What makes a genius…well…a genius? So, Petrie, who loved science and the study of the human race, decided to donate his head to the Royal College of Surgeons of London and upon his death his body was buried in the Protestant Cemetary on Mt. Zion and his head was sent back to London. But there was one small problem that caused a delay in the delivery, World War II! Petrie died in 1942 and the post was a little slow, his head was lost! Eventually, to everyone’s relief, his head was found in a warehouse sometime after the end of the war and was sent back to London where, apparently, it can still be found today. What a rush!

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie