PETRIE, SIR WILLIAM MATTHEW FLINDERS°


PETRIE, SIR WILLIAM MATTHEW FLINDERS° (1853–1942). British archaeologist well-known for his work in Egypt, as well as in Palestine. In 1880 he visited Egypt for the first time and in 1882 he was engaged in establishing the exact measurements of the Giza pyramids. In Palestine he conducted excavations at Tell el-Ḥesī in 1890 on behalf of the Palestine Exploration Fund, pointing out for the first time that a mound was not a rubbish heap, as some scholars believed at that time (notably C.R. Conder), but represented the superimposed strata of ancient settlements with a sequence of identifiable cultural materials and pottery dating from different ages. Petrie did many of the drawings and plans himself, even going as far as making his own "pinhole" cameras. One of his invented cameras is shown at the Museum of Photography in Bath. Beginning in 1897, Petrie undertook excavations in Egypt on behalf of the Egypt Excavation Fund. He excavated and identified, among many others, a number of Pre-Dynastic sites (where he applied his method of sequence dating), the early royal tombs at Abydos, discovering the Sinaitic inscriptions and the Greek city of Naucratis. In the process Petrie also studied many aspects of ancient Egyptian life, such as the use of papyri in mummification. From 1893 to 1935, Petrie served as professor of Egyptology at University College in London. He excavated during the winter and published the results in the summer, eventually producing over 100 reports. In 1926 he founded the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, which supported several excavations in Palestine. Among the sites excavated by Petrie in southern Palestine are Tell el-Jemmeh (1926), Tell el-Farah (south) (1927–29) and Tell el-ʿAjjūl (1929–31), from which he achieved valuable results, despite his mistaken identifications of the sites. His works include, in addition to numerous excavation reports, Hyksosand Israelite Cities (1906); Egypt and Israel (1906); Methodsand Aims in Archaeology (1904); A History of Egypt (6 vols., 1894–1905); The Arts and Crafts of Ancient Egypt (1909); Social Life in Ancient Egypt (1923); Religious Life in Ancient Egypt (1924); Seventy Years in Archaeology (1931), an autobiography. He was knighted in 1923 and spent the last years of his life in Jerusalem and at the American School of Oriental Research (now the Albright Institute). Petrie was a constant follower of the popular 19th-century eugenics movement that correlated human intelligence with measurement of skull size. He died in Jerusalem and was buried in the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion (within the property of the present-day Jerusalem University College); his head, however, was removed, following his dying wishes, and taken to London, where it is now located in liquid preservative in a large glass jar within the collections of the Royal College of Surgeons.

ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY:

E.P. Uphill, "A Bibliography of Sir William Flinders Petrie (1853–1942)," in: JNES, 31 (1972), 356–379; J.A. Callaway, "Sir Flinders Petrie: Father of Palestinian Archaeology," in: Biblical Archaeology Review, 6:6 (1980), 44–55; M.S. Drower, Flinders Petrie: A Life in Archaeology (1985); V.M. Fargo, "Sir Flinders Petrie," in: Biblical Archaeologist, 47 (1984), 220–23; L.C. Martin, "The Flinders-Petrie Archaeological Camera," in: The British Journal of Photography, 98 (1950); S. Gibson and T. Rajak, "Tell el-Hesi and the Camera: The Photographs of Petrie and Bliss," in: PEQ, 122 (1990), 114–32; N.A. Silberman, "Petrie, William Matthew Flinders," in: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, 4 (1997), 308–9; S. Gibson, "Sir Flinders Petrie," in: Eretz Magazine, 52 (1997), 51.

[Michael Avi-Yonah /

Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.