Monday, February 04, 2008

Petrie Finds to be displayed at Columbia Museum of Art (South Carolina)

"One swings down a rope ladder for 25 feet, then squeezes through the top of a doorway nearly choked with debris, and at once slides down the slope inside into the water," wrote William Flinders Petrie of his 1888 excavation of a flooded tomb in the heart of an ancient Egyptian pyramid. "The whole of the walls are pitch-black, owing to some deposit or growth when the water has filled the chambers. So it is very dark and the candle only just shows you where you collide with floating coffins and skulls that go bobbing around."

The text reads like a dramatic scene from an Indiana Jones movie adventure, but Petrie, whom many regard as the Father of Scientific Archaeology, was describing a moment that had become almost commonplace in his extraordinary career. For more than 60 years, from 1880 when at the age of 27 he first traveled to Egypt to survey the pyramids at Giza to 1942 when he died in Jerusalem, the redoubtable Petrie dominated the discipline of field archaeology and amassed a vast collection of artifacts, many of which he brought back to England and to University College, London, where he was a professor.

As a result of his efforts and the generous bequests of other patrons, the permanent collection of what is now called the Petrie Museum numbers approximately 80,000 items. For a limited time, while a new building is constructed in London to showcase the collection, about 200 of Petrie's most significant finds are on view in the United States. Organized by the Petrie Museum in collaboration with the Carlos Museum at Emory University, "Excavating Egypt," an exhibition devoted to these extraordinary finds, can now be seen at the Columbia Museum of Art..."