Egypt in South Africa

Great discoveries

Great discoveries

Flinders Petrie was the first person to properly investigate how the pyramids were constructed as well as the first person to study broken objects of everyday life, such as pottery for example. From 1881-1882 Petrie published a report on his analysis of the architecture of the Giza plateau. It was exemplary in its methodology and accuracy, and still provides much of the basic data regarding the pyramid plateau today.
 
In 1885 Petrie detected the presence of Greeks in the Nile and discovered the Greek trading centre of Naucratis. A number of these were inscribed in ink.
 
In 1888 Petrie discovered sarcophagi, coins and papyrus within the Roman cemetery of the Hawara site at the entrance of the Faiyum oasis. From 1910-1911 he returned to the Hawara burial site. The sarcophagi he found was made from wood and had painted faces, some still had the original mummies intact. The coins that Petrie found made it easier to assign dates to the burials. At Hawara he found a thick roll of papyrus with names like ‘Agamemnon’ and ‘Corinth’ in Greek, the rolls turned out to be part of the Iliad.
 
The polychrome ware found in the pharaonic tomb-workers of the Middle Kingdom at Kahun during 1889 proved to be a vital link to understanding the Minoan civilization. Petrie returned and excavated at Kahun from 1913-1914 and again in 1920. The Minoan civilization coincided with the reign of Senusret II and became the benchmark for Cretan Chronology. Petrie found papyrus documents – medical texts, veterinary papyrus, various letters, accounts and documents. The jewellery of Princess Sit-Hathor-Iunet of the 12th Dynasty was also found at Kahun. Besides her gold crown, they found two pectorals of gold inlay with cloisonné work, necklaces of gold, amethyst and carnelian, armlets of gold and collars of gold cowries and lions’ heads. All this was in an ivory jewellery casket.
 
From 1891-1892 Babylonian cuneiform tablets, Mycenaean ware and pottery vessels from Cyprus were found at El ‘Amarna, a city that was built by Akhenaten in 1375 BC. Flinders preserved paintings on the walls and floors by stabilizing it with thin tapioca water. The discovery of various workshops enabled Petrie to study different manufacturing processes and he mapped the ancient road system.
 
In 1895 Petrie and his team of archaeologists excavated nearly 2 000 graves at Naqada, on the West bank of the Nile. These graves were from the pre-dynastic inhabitants of Ancient Egypt. After realizing that these were the graves of the early Egyptians Petrie’s mind went into overdrive and he went to the next step: typological classification, i.e. sequence dating.
 
During Petrie’s 1896 excavation in Western Thebes he found a stela originally prepared for a temple of Amenophis III. The stela was usurped by Merenptah, son and successor of Ramses II. Near the end of the text there is a reference to a tribe smitten by Merenptah, namely ‘I.si.ri.ar’.  It was the first mention of the word ‘Israel’ in any Egyptian text (pictured right below).  
 
Linen were found in Deshasha which dates back to the 5th Dynasty in 1896-97, which could not be unwrapped until the 1980s.
 
Petrie discovered the burial place of the four earliest pharaohs in Abydos, Umm el-Qa’ab from 1899 – 1904 and returned to that site in 1921-1922. Flinders found vessels of pottery and stone, weapons, furniture, gold-mounted stone vessels and small labels or plaques in ivory and wood, inscriptions depicting the beginning of hieroglyphic writing.
 
In 1906 Petrie discovered a new and unknown alphabetic script alongside hieroglyphs at Serabit. This was Proto-Sinaitic (18th Dynasty).
 
During Petrie’s 1911-12 excavations in Tarkhan, he found tomb furntiure, linen, basketry, slate palettes, alabaster pots, copper tools and rush matting in the cemeteries. Some of his finds from this period are now located at the Iziko Slave Lodge in Cape Town. One of the greatest finds was a jar seal with the name of King Nar-mer, the unifier of Egypt. The oldest garment found in Egypt was excavated here and is now located in the Petrie Museum in London, which was opened in 1915.
 
During 1930-34 Petrie set a new standard in Palestinian archaeology as well – the meticulous recording of tombs. Each tomb received a number and details had to be filled in on a tomb card according to the different categories and objects found.

 

 

Double Kylix ceramic excavated by Petrie in Naucratis in 1885 dating from 575 to 550 BC.
A coffin excavated at the Roman cemetary of Hawara during 1910 to 1911. The sarcophagi he found was made from wood and had painted faces and some still had the original mummies intact. 
A stela usurped by Merenptah, son and successor of Ramses II. There is a reference to a tribe I.SI.RI.AR. the first mention of the word Israel in any Egyptian text.