Egypt in South Africa

Early childhood

Flinders Petrie was called Willie (after his first name William) as a child. He was large for his age with an extremely inquisitive mind and a favourite pastime of measuring objects. He excelled in his knowledge of chemicals and minerals. Willie studied his mother’s collection of minerals and fossils and started collecting coins.
When Willie was thirteen, he became friends with N.T. Riley, the owner of an antique shop. Riley took Willie to auctions in London and encouraged him to go to the British Museum to identify the coins that he bought. Finding that the boy brought in coins that the national collection lacked, the staff of the Department of Coins encouraged him to buy on their behalf.
When he turned 21 he qualified for a Readers’ ticket. The British Museum’s reading room became Petrie’s university, a man who had no formal schooling.
His father taught him accurate methods of surveying and he was very interested in surveying and recording the ancient monuments of England. With the help of his father, he surveyed Stonehenge in six days. The experience gained by Flinders Petrie in these field excursions was of immeasurable value to him later in his career.


Anne Flinders Petrie with Flinders Petrie when he was 8 years old.