Egypt in South Africa

How artifacts arrived in South Africa

The first Egyptian objects arrived in South Africa during the late 19th century and went to the South African Museum (SAM) in Cape Town, which had been established in the 1820s. In the mid 1960s the SAM became a natural history museum when the South African Cultural History Museum (SACHM) was established in 1966.
The relevant collections of the SAM, including the Egyptian collection, were transferred to the new museum. The SACHM building, today known as the Slave Lodge, has had interesting transformations over the last century. In 1999, the SAM and SACHM, together with several other museums in Cape Town, were amalgamated under the auspices of Iziko: Museums of Cape Town, which was renamed to Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko) in 2012.
Iziko possesses an Egyptian collection of approximately 500 objects. The core collection comprising of material excavated by the Egyptologist, Sir Flinders Petrie, arrived in this country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These artefacts are mainly from Kafr-Tarkhan where graves from the Predynastic to the Roman Period were found.
The bulk of the Tarkhan collection consists of pottery, but linen, cosmetics palettes, beads, alabaster vases, basketry, sections of a wooden bed, a reed coffin, a bone spoon, pebbles, iron ore, seashells, and bone bangles are also included.
The Egyptian collection includes artefacts from Tell el-Amarna (also excavated by Petrie) as well as objects excavated by Guy Brunton, who worked with Petrie on some of his excavations. Later Brunton himself ran excavations and artefacts from Mostagedda (1928), dating from Predynastic to Coptic times, and now forms part of the Museum’s collection.
Capetonian, Alfred Aaron de Pass (1861-1952), businessman and benefactor to the city, purchased many of the antiquities that Iziko owns for the South African Museum. His noble intention was that the ‘public of Cape Town benefit from seeing original examples of the artistic achievement of ancient civilisations’.
Other artefacts were purchased on the international market or had been donated to the Museum by benefactors.


The South African Cultural History Museum (SACHM), today known as the Slave Lodge, was established in the 1960s.
The Egyptian collection consists largely of material excavated by Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie mainly from Kafr-Tarkhan, where items such as pottery, linen, cosmetic palettes etc were found.