Scots throughout history have become famous (and infamous!) as explorers and thinkers, scientists and inventors, but how many Scots can you name who made contributions to Egyptology? Below are listed some of the Scottish men and women who have shared our interest in ancient Egypt and left their mark.

James Bruce

James Bruce (1730 - 1794)

James Bruce, the traveller and writer, was born at the family home, Kinnaird House near Larbert, Stirlingshire and was educated at Edinburgh University. Following the sudden death of his wife in 1754, Bruce immersed himself in travel, journeying to Portugal and Spain where he studied Arabic and Ge’ez (ancient Ethiopian). He was appointed consul-general at Algiers from 1763-1765 and during this period and his subsequent travels in Barbary and the Levant, Bruce made a study of many ancient ruins, as well as continuing his study of oriental languages and gaining a rudimentary knowledge of medicine.

Bruce travelled to Egypt in 1768 with the aim of discovering the source of the Nile, which he believed lay in Ethiopia. He visited Cairo, Luxor and, famously, the Valley of the Kings where he made a copy of the harpers scene in the tomb of Ramses III (at great personal risk according to his diaries!). His romanticised sketch provided the world with its first glimpse inside the tombs of the Valley, and from that point on, KV 11 was known as ‘Bruce’s Tomb’. Having gained the support of the Mameluke ruler, Ali Bey, Bruce then set out on his journey to Abyssinia, reaching Gondor, the then capital of Ethiopia in 1770. On November 14, 1770, he reached Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. In December 1771, he set out from Gondor to seek the confluence of the Blue Nile with the White Nile. He eventually arrived back in Cairo in January 1773.

Returning to Scotland in 1776, an account of his expedition, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768 - 73 was not published until 1790. Due to Bruce’s well-known vanity, his elaborate descriptions of his amazing adventures in Abyssinia and the perceived lack of substantiation for his traveller’s tales, many of his contemporaries cast doubt on the reliability of his statements. However modern travellers subsequently demonstrated the general accuracy of Bruce’s accomplishments. He is now generally recognised for the daring and intrepid nature of his explorations and for the contribution he made to the geographical and ethnographical knowledge of Africa of his era.

He died at Kinnaird House in 1794 and is buried in Larbert churchyard.

David Roberts

David Roberts

David Roberts (1796 - 1864) 

David Roberts was born in Stockbridge, Edinburgh. The son of a cobbler, Roberts’ artistic talents were recognised at an early age and he was apprenticed to a housepainter and decorator for seven years. During this period, he also attended evening classes to study art. In his early career, he painted sceneries for a travelling circus. He then obtained a full-time post as a scenery painter in theatres in Glasgow and Edinburgh. In 1820, he met Clarkson Stanfield while painting at the Pantheon, Edinburgh, who encouraged Roberts to send his paintings to exhibitions. In 1822, at Stanfield’s suggestion, Roberts sent three pictures to the Exhibition of Works by Living Artists, in Edinburgh.

In this same year, Roberts moved to London to pursue his painting career. While still working as a scenery painter for the Coburg and Drury Lane theatres, he began to exhibit watercolours and oil paintings. His first exhibition of paintings was held at the Society of British Artists in 1824, then at the Royal Academy in 1826. He became a member of the Society of British Artists, becoming its President in 1831.

Roberts travelled widely seeking inspiration for his paintings. From 1824 - 1830, he travelled in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. In 1832-1833, he spent 11 months in Spain, and the drawings, oil paintings and lithographs that were produced from his Spanish trip, earned him enough money over the next few years to finance a trip to the East. In 1838-1839 he spent 11 months travelling in Egypt, Syria and the Holy Land. During his travels up and down the Nile, he produced over 300 images of monuments, ruins and peoples in his watercolours and sketches. The images are of particular interest because they show many Egyptian sites before restoration. On his return from this trip, Roberts was elected as a member of the Royal Academy in 1841. Following his return, his sketches and watercolours were turned into the now world famous lithographs by the Belgian lithographer Louis Haghe and 247 lithographs were published as The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia (1842-1849).

David Roberts was granted the freedom of Edinburgh in 1858. When he died in 1864 in London, this painter of humble origins was a famous man, who could count Queen Victoria among his customers. His fame was due to the way in which he could capture the details of monuments and daily life in his sketches and paintings. The first British artist to sketch the monuments of ancient Egypt, the legacy of his work has been to provide us with a glimpse of how an ancient civilisation might once have appeared.

Robert Hay

Robert Hay

Robert Hay (1799 – 1863) 

Robert Hay (1799 – 1863) was born in Duns Castle in Berwickshire. He first went to Egypt in 1818 when he visited Alexandria during his service in the Royal Navy. This visit, together with reading the exploits of Giovanni Battista Belzoni, inspired Hay to return and explore Egypt.

For 10 years from 1824, he travelled throughout Egypt, making sketches and watercolours of several sites. He documented monuments, temples and inscriptions, often making plaster casts of reliefs as well as a number of architectural plans. For much of his time in Egypt, Hay was accompanied and assisted by the sculptor and artist, Joseph Bonomi and later in his expedition by Edward Lane, an Arabic scholar and draughtsman. In 1828, Hay married Kalitza Psaraki, the daughter of the chief magistrate of Apodhulo, Crete, whom he had rescued from a slave market in Alexandria. She accompanied Hay during the rest of his travels in Egypt.

Hay built up an enormous collection of drawings and casts from his time in Egypt, but sadly, due to a variety of personal and monetary issues, only one book of Hay’s work, Illustrations of Cairo (1840), was ever published in his lifetime. However, the British Library held in its possession two panoramas created by Hay illustrating daily life in modern Thebes, which in 2001 served as the centre-piece to an exhibition on Gurna. Following his death in East Lothian in 1863, the majority of his antiquities collection and plaster casts were sold to the British Museum (though some artefacts were bought by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1872). His notes and drawings are mainly in the British Library.

Charles Piazzi Smyth

Charles Piazzi Smyth

Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819 – 1900) 

Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819 – 1900) was born in Naples, Italy and was the son of the amateur astronomer Admiral William Henry Smyth.

An eccentric but respected scientist of his time, Smyth was appointed Astronomer Royal of Scotland in 1846 and was also Professor of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. Among his various scientific studies, he carried out research into the advantages of mountain stations for undertaking astronomical observations and in 1856, founded the first high altitude observatory on what is now the Las Palmas Observatory in the Canary Islands. He also pioneered research in spectroscopy and infra-red astronomy. Perhaps less well known, he was also the instigator of the ‘One O’Clock Gun’ at Edinburgh Castle in 1861, as part of a time signal for ships at Leith.

Smyth was also fascinated by Ancient Egypt and in particular, by the pyramids and ‘pyramidology’. He was heavily influenced in this by the work of John Taylor, author of The Great Pyramid: Why Was It Built? & Who Built It? (1859), with whom he corresponded. On the basis of his own mathematical calculations and information gleaned from travellers’ tales of Egypt, Taylor had declared that the Great Pyramid was built ‘to make a record of the measure of the Earth’. Among Taylor’s claims was that the Ancient Egyptians knew the value of pi and that they used an inch close to the British inch to create their cubit of 25 Pyramid inches.

In 1865, Smyth travelled to Egypt to make accurate measurements of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Further influenced by his own religious beliefs, Smyth came to the conclusion that Khufu’s pyramid was a record of ancient and even God inspired knowledge and that it was built with just enough ‘pyramid inches’ to make it a scale model of the circumference of the earth. Smyth further believed that the British were descended from the lost tribe of Israel. Whatever one may think of his theories, Smyth did carry out a lot of valuable work at Giza and his measurements were the most accurate recordings of the Great Pyramid up to that time. His theories were published in Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid (1864) and the three volume Life and Work at the Great Pyramid (1867). He was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in recognition of his work, but resigned his fellowship of the Royal Society in 1874 when they rejected his paper on the design of the Great pyramid.

Alexander Henry Rhind

Alexander Henry Rhind

Alexander Henry Rhind (1833 – 1863) 

Alexander Henry Rhind (1833 – 1863), was born in Wick and studied at the University of Edinburgh. His fascination with Scottish antiquities earned him recognition as a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland, for whom he wrote many papers. 

Illness forced him to winter abroad in warmer climates and like many others, Rhind travelled to Egypt, making his first visit in 1855. He was appalled not only by the indiscriminate looting of antiquities, but by the lack of meticulous and accurate recording of archaeological finds. In his own excavations over the next few years, he was rigorous in the recording of details, becoming one of the first Egyptologists to apply these methods. Rhind worked extensively and with some success among the private tombs of Thebes and Qurna, and many of his finds are now in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Two of his more famous acquisitions are mathematical papyri: the Leather Roll and the Rhind Papyrus (also known as the Ahmes Papyrus). Both were purchased on the Luxor antiquities market in 1858 and were possibly discovered in the ruins of the Ramesseum near Thebes. The Leather Roll (c 1850 BC) is a collection of 26 sums in unit fractions. It may have been used as a handy table for every day use by a junior official. The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (c 1650 BC) was copied by a scribe named Ahmose from another earlier document said to have been written around 2000 BC that may in turn have been a copy of an even earlier document. It contains 87 mathematical problems. Rhind’s lawyer, David Bremner, sold both these papyri and a third (a mythological text now known as Papyrus Bremner-Rhind!) to the British Museum in 1865.

Other tasks completed by Rhind include a geographical study of the Nile, its cyclical floods and sedimentology and the publication of Thebes, Its Tombs and Tenants in 1862. He was working on a study of Nubian dialects when he died in 1863.

Dr James Andrew Sandilands Grant (1840 – 1896)

Dr James Andrew Sandilands Grant (1840 – 1896) was born in Methlick, Aberdeenshire. The son of a banker, Grant studied medicine at Aberdeen University. He travelled to Egypt in the mid-1860s to help with a violent outbreak of cholera and for his efforts in helping to stop the epidemic, was awarded the Egyptian Order of Medjidieh. He achieved a high reputation in Cairo as a physician and was later given the title of 'Bey' by the Khedive of Egypt.

While in Egypt, Grant befriended Waynman and John Dixon, two engineers from Newcastle who were engaged in the construction of a bridge across the Nile near Cairo. Grant and the Dixon brothers shared a common acquaintance, Charles Piazzi Smyth, the Astronomer Royal of Scotland who undertook a survey of the Great Pyramid in 1865. In 1872 Piazzi Smyth had hoped to return to Egypt to make re-measurements of the Great Pyramid, but was unable to go due to illness. He contacted Waynman Dixon, and asked him to take the measurements with the assistance of Grant and this they undertook in the summer of 1872. Grant corresponded with Piazzi Smyth for several years after this, informing him of developments and excavations carried out at the Giza Plateau.

Grant was also acquainted with the German Egyptologist Heinrich Brugsch and William Flinder’s Petrie (following Petrie’s arrival in Egypt in 1880), with whom he developed a friendship which lasted until Grant’s death. Petrie’s letters home describe his midnight rescue of Grant from inside the Great Pyramid during Petrie’s first visit to Giza!

During his time in Egypt, Grant became an expert in the life, customs and antiquities of Egypt and built up a large collection of Egyptian antiquities at his home in Cairo. Most of these were donated to the Marischal Museum, University of Aberdeen.

Rev. Colin Campbell

Rev. Colin Campbell

Reverend Colin Campbell (1848 – 1931) 

Reverend Colin Campbell (1848 – 1931) was born in Campbelltown, Argyllshire and studied at Glasgow University, achieving a doctorate in divinity. During his long career, he acted as chaplain to Queen Victoria, although his home and ministry from 1882 was in Dundee.

Campbell was a polymath who was interested in a wide variety of subjects, including poetry, philosophy, medicine and theology. One of his passions was Egypt which he visited several times to collect antiquities. In addition to his many works on scripture, he published his own accounts of several Theban royal tombs, and translated Edouard Naville’s lectures on religion from French into English (The Old Egyptian Faith, 1909).

After his death, his impressive collection was bequeathed jointly to the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, and Dundee Museum. His collection of 27 hieratic ostraca (mostly from Deir el-Medina) held in the Hunterian Museum was translated and published for the first time in 1993 by Andrea McDowell.

The Reverend James Baikie (1866 – 1931)

The Reverend James Baikie (1866 – 1931) was born in Bonnyrigg, near Edinburgh. He studied at New College, Oxford (where he later did some teaching) and Edinburgh University. After his studies, he entered the ministry of the Church of Scotland at Ancrum, then moved to Wardie United Free Church in Edinburgh before taking up his final post at St. John’s Church in Torphichen, near Linlithgow.

He had broad interests in many subjects and produced books on astronomy as well as more than fourteen on archaeology, all written in an informed but informal style (as suggested by the title of his book Peeps at Ancient Egypt!). He was particularly interested in Egypt, and produced general discussions of history, culture and society as well as specific works like The Amarna Age (re-printed in 2004!). One of the proofs of his wide-ranging influence is that the first published work in 1932 of the celebrated Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz was an Arabic translation of Baikie’s Ancient Egypt (1912).

Baikie stands out among Scottish Egyptologists because he never actually saw Egypt for himself. A true ‘armchair scholar’, he relied on the reports of his many friends and colleagues in the field. Perhaps he was worried about the consequences of a visit? In his History of Egypt (vol. 1, p. 16), he wrote: ‘It has been suggested that the character of the climate is such as to impart temporary exhilaration at the expense of the body’s reserves of energy, and that nerves are kept at a tension which in the end produces an abnormally early failure of vital force’!

Cyril Aldred

Cyril Aldred

Cyril Aldred (1914 – 1991) 

Although Cyril Aldred (1914 – 1991) was born and grew up in London, he can nevertheless be considered an honorary Scot for the 53 years he spent in Edinburgh. His interest in Egyptology began during his recuperation from illness at age 11 when he was given a book on Egypt by Wallis Budge, which was to become a lifelong passion.

When he was 18, Aldred was introduced to Howard Carter who was very impressed with him: ‘I have found him to have a very fair knowledge of Egyptological subjects, especially that of Egyptian art’. Carter offered him the chance to work with him for a season in Egypt. Aldred, however, turned this down in favour of getting his degree at King’s College, London, completing his studies afterwards at the Courthauld Institute of Art.

In 1937, he was appointed Assistant Keeper in the Department of Art and Ethnography at the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh. A year later he married his Scottish wife, Jessica. He left the museum only twice. The first time was during the Second World War when the museum was closed, and the second was to take up a one-year post in The Metropolitan Museum in New York (1955-56). Shortly after his return home to Scotland in 1961, he was promoted to Keeper of Art and Archaeology, and he remained in the post until his retirement in 1974.

During his long career, Aldred published prolifically. Art was always his first love, and at a time when books in English on Egyptian art were very few, his Old Kingdom Art in Ancient Egypt (1949), followed by studies of the Middle Kingdom (1950) and New Kingdom (1952) were enormously popular. He was especially interested in the Amarna Period and its enigmatic protagonist, Akhenaten, and published several books on Amarna art and history.

Aldred was a trained metal and silversmith and ‘dabbled’ (as he described it) in drawing and painting. He produced copies of famous pieces of Egyptian jewellery which are in the collection of National Museums Scotland today.

It cannot have been easy for a man so interested in research to have pursued his studies far away from colleagues and library resources, but Cyril Aldred persevered, researching and writing well into his retirement. Those who knew him describe him as a modest man, known for what his friend T.G.H. James called his ‘revealing chuckle’. He is sadly missed by his colleagues.

Ian Mathieson

Ian Mathieson

Ian Mathieson (1927 – 2010)

Ian Mathieson (1927 – 2010) was born and grew up in Edinburgh. After military service between 1944 – 1947, he studied at Heriot Watt College in Edinburgh and qualified as a mining surveyor and geologist. He worked in a range of civil engineering and surveying posts throughout the world during his career and his many work projects included an assignment to map the valley of the Euphrates River in Iraq. He was also a member of the party that made the first crossing of the great Nafud Desert in Saudi Arabia.

Ian was keenly interested in the theatre and amateur dramatics and served on the board of directors of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society in the 1970s. At this time, he was also developing an interest in archaeology and devised new excavation methods using his experience in geology and civil engineering, visiting nearly every Roman site in Scotland.

In 1972 his surveying work took him more regularly to Egypt and it was around this time that he started to develop an interest in the archaeology of Ancient Egypt. From that time on Roman archaeology was left behind. When Ian retired from full-time work in 1986, he was able to further develop his interest in Egyptian archaeology and to devise methods of surveying and mapping large sites to discover what lay beneath the ground without the expense or intrusion of excavation. He spent the next 20 years refining methods using resistivity, gradiometry and radar.

He worked with parties from the Egypt Exploration Society and Cambridge University at Memphis and Amarna before the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt granted him his own site at Saqqara. In 1990, Ian established and became director of the Saqqara Geophysical Survey Project. The Project was supported and continues to be sponsored by Glasgow Museums, as part of Culture and Sport Glasgow. He also founded the Scottish Egyptian Archaeological Trust, a foundation to further work in Egypt.

One of Ian’s greatest delights was that Scotland - one of the smallest countries in the world - had one of the largest concessions in Egypt to survey. Ian brought his expertise to the Saqqara plateau, creating archaeological and geophysical maps of the many monuments still submerged beneath the sands. In his annual lectures to the society, Ian always teased Egyptology Scotland that he and his team might finally discover the lost tomb of King Djoser’s master-architect, Imhotep. This still might happen as the work of the Saqqara Project continues under the directorship of Ian’s friend and colleague, Dr. Campbell Price.

Ian’s contribution to Egyptian archaeology was immense and he is held in high regard in the world of Egyptology for his archaeological work at Saqqara. His name is inscribed along with Howard Carter and others in the Imhotep Museum at Saqqara.

A larger than life character with a wicked sense of humour, his work in Egyptology, his contribution to the arts and his fundraising for charity earned him the love and respect of many people. He is greatly missed by Egyptology Scotland of which he was a strong supporter. The annual Ian Mathieson Memorial Lecture was established in his memory.

Sir Archibald Edmonstone (1795 – 1871) 

Sir Archibald Edmonstone (1795-1871) of Duntreath, Stirling published his Journey through the Two Oases of Upper Egypt in 1822. He travelled through Egypt after his studies in Christchurch College, Oxford.

Edward Hogg  (1783 – 1848)

The Glaswegian doctor Edward Hogg (1783-1848) toured the ancient Near East between 1832-33, journeying deep into the south of Nubia. If you visit Wadi Halfa, you can still read his name carved into the rock of Abu Sir. His Visit to Alexandria, Damascus and Jerusalem was published in two volumes in 1835 upon his return home.

John Anderson (1833 – 1900)

John Anderson (1833-1900) trained in his native city Edinburgh as an anatomist and naturalist, but he travelled extensively in China, Arabia and Egypt. His Reptiles and Batrachia (1878) was the first volume in the ‘Zoology of Egypt’ series.

Donald Donald (? – 1835)

One of the most colourful stories belongs to Donald Donald (= Donald McLeod?) (?- 1835) of Inverness, better known by his adopted name Osman. He went to Egypt in 1807 as a drummer-boy in the 2nd Battalion of the 78th Highlanders to take part in the Egyptian campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, but was soon captured in battle. Given the choice between death and conversion, he chose the latter and lived the rest of his life as a Muslim in Egypt despite being offered his freedom and the chance to return home in 1814. In the last years of his life, he owned several houses in Cairo in which he entertained visiting British travellers, including Robert Hay, the Scottish painter David Wilkie and the writer A W Kinglake, who wrote about Osman in his book ‘Eothen’ a tale of his travels in the East.

Alexander, the 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767 – 1852)

Perhaps the strangest - and most devoted? - Egyptophile was Alexander, the 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767-1852). He travelled in Egypt and collected antiquities both for the British Museum, of which he was a trustee, and for himself. One obituary notice remarked that his ‘timidity and variableness of temperament’ was an impediment to his political advancement and effectiveness. But he showed considerable boldness when he arranged for Thomas ‘Mummy’ Pettigrew (a London surgeon who had risen to considerable fame by unwrapping mummies) to mummify his body after his death! He acquired an authentic Egyptian sarcophagus for himself too and was buried in it, despite the troubling fact that it was 8 inches too short. Alexander was actually born in London, but chose to be buried in a rather splendid mausoleum on his Hamilton estate. The land around his mausoleum was undermined by subsidence, and so he now rests, still within his sarcophagus, in a local cemetery in Hamilton.

Annie Abernethie Pirie (1862 – 1927) 

Not so many women are known for their contributions to Egyptology, but there are a few Scottish exceptions. Some are known through their Egyptologist husbands, for example Annie Abernethie Pirie (1862-1927) who was a reverend’s daughter in Aberdeen and a talented artist. She married James E. Quibell in 1900 and assisted both him and Petrie on several excavations. She published Egyptian History and Art (1923) and an account of her own experiences in A Wayfarer in Egypt (1926), although one of her masterpieces was her beautifully drawn and coloured plates in F. Ll. Griffith’s Hieroglyphs (1898). She was also responsible for installing James Grant’s collection of antiquities in the museum in Aberdeen.

Nora Christina Cobban MacDonald (1873 – 1937)

Griffith himself was married to another Aberdonian, Nora Christina Cobban MacDonald (1873-1937). She had first fallen in love with Egypt during a visit in 1906 and had gone to study Egyptology under Griffith in Oxford subsequently. Three years later, she was his wife. She showed her devotion to her husband and his work by assisting him on his studies in Egypt, Nubia and the Sudan and, even after his death in 1934, by preparing all his unfinished manuscripts for publication. Both Frank and Nora Griffith’s fortunes went towards founding The Griffith Institute for Egyptology in Oxford, which housed Griffith’s own library. The original building, furnished with Griffith’s own desks, was completed one year after Nora’s death. The collection, now housed in the Sackler library, is one of the best in the world.

Janet Gourlay (1863 – 1912) 

Janet Gourlay (1863-1912) was a bit of an adventuress. Born in Dundee, she studied under Petrie at University College, London, before travelling to Egypt herself. In 1896, she was introduced to the like-minded Margaret Benson (the daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury!) with whom she excavated the Temple of Mut within the Karnak complex in Thebes. Their publication The Temple of Mut in Asher (1899) is meticulous and beautifully illustrated. She also published, with Percy Newberry, two monuments of the famous Late Period mayor of Thebes, Montuemhat, discovered in the course of their excavations at Karnak. Her work seems to have been her life, because she never married.

Kenneth Kitchen

Kenneth Kitchen

Professor Kenneth A. Kitchen

Anyone who is interested in the Ramesside Period in ancient Egypt has probably dipped into Professor Kenneth A. Kitchen’s Pharaoh Triumphant. The Life and Times of Ramesses II. As an Egyptologist, he has spent over 50 years at the University of Liverpool, first as an undergraduate and then as a lecturer and professor. But few people know that he is a native Scot, born in Aberdeen! 

Professor Kitchen’s research interests are extremely broad, although he is perhaps best known - and most appreciated by colleagues - for his monumental work Ramesside Inscriptions. There are 8 volumes containing handwritten transcriptions of every royal and private inscription from the Ramesside Period, accompanied by currently 5 (but eventually 14) volumes of translations and extensive commentary notes: truly a godsend!

Historically, Professor Kitchen’s interests extend beyond the Ramesside Period into the Third Intermediate Period - his book The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt is regarded as one of the essential works on the subject. He also contributes professionally to other Near Eastern disciplines: Semitics (ancient Ugarit), ancient Arabian studies (vols. 3-4 of his Documentation for Ancient Arabia are forthcoming), and what he calls ‘more abstruse’ subjects including the Hittite hieroglyphic (‘Luwian’) inscriptions and kingdoms of Iron-Age Syria. As a devout Evangelical Christian, he has written extensively on Biblical history and Egypt’s connections with the lands of the Bible. These various studies have involved him in extensive travels not only in Egypt and parts of Europe, but also in North and South America, Australia, Turkey and the Levant, and Southern and Eastern Arabia. By no means, however, are his wide-ranging research interests confined to the historical - he has translated works of both Hurrian and Egyptian poetry.

How did his interest in Egyptology begin? “At the tender age of 13 (c. 1945), an uncle sent me the opening parts of Harmsworth’s Universal History of the World that included (besides dinosaurs!) essays on Ancient Egypt and the early Near East. These, combined with J.A. Hammerton’s Wonders of the Past (seen in a friend’s home), caught my imagination and implanted an ardent desire to be able to read hieroglyphs. In 1946-7, I picked up a copy of Budge’s The Mummy which contained lists of hieroglyphs and values. Thereafter, contact with the late Professor Fairman in Liverpool (1950) sealed my fate!”

Despite being one of the world’s leading Egyptologists, Professor Kitchen is extremely generous with his time, and his lectures are much like the man himself - erudite and enormously entertaining.

Jimmy Thomson

Jimmy Thomson became interested in ancient Egypt when he was a boy. Although he was able to read about Egypt in books and visit the Egyptian displays in the Kelvingrove, in order to study Egyptology he had to leave his native Glasgow for Liverpool.

With a view to obtaining the qualifications for a museum post, Jimmy enrolled in the School of Archaeology and Oriental Studies in Liverpool, where he studied for the Certificate in Archaeology alongside fellow Scot Kenneth Kitchen (see above). The course covered Egyptian history, grammar, epigraphy, methods and practice of archaeology - and a dash of European prehistory for good measure!

After his studies in Liverpool, he held posts in museums in Doncaster, Stirling and Glasgow (The Burrell Collection), becoming curator of Ancient Civilizations in Glasgow Museums in 1981. Egypt remained only a small part of his curating job in Glasgow, however, and Jimmy describes ‘keeping up’ his studies by translating texts in his spare time! He also did all he could do to encourage enthusiasm for ancient Egypt in his fellow Scots, lecturing to schools, societies and groups on a variety of topics usually dictated, he says, by what slides he had at the time! From 1985-1998, he taught Egyptian language and history - the first formal classes in Egyptology in Scotland - for the Department of Adult and Continuing Education in Glasgow. In 1987 and 1991, he took study groups to Egypt, following up on his classes.

It was during his national service that Jimmy actually visited Egypt for the first time, although he was only passing through on his way to Cyprus. The Arab-Israeli war of 1948 denied him the chance to visit Giza and Saqqara - he still remembers the feeling of frustration at seeing them advertised and being so close! He was finally able to return to Egypt for a longer visit of three weeks in 1960 and has fond memories of being able to visit as many tombs and temples as he liked in a day for one Egyptian pound, including the hire of a donkey and a donkey-boy!

It has not always been easy to be an Egyptology enthusiast in Scotland. Following up on reading or museum visits by attending special lectures or formal classes used to mean leaving the country! For many grateful students, Jimmy Thomson brought Egypt to Scotland through his teaching and his work in the Glasgow Museums, and Egyptology has been part of the curriculum in Glasgow ever since. In recognition of his services to Egyptology in Scotland, Jimmy was made a life-member of the society at its founding in 2000.

Dr Angela McDonald

Dr Angela McDonald is an Egyptologist based in Glasgow at the Centre for Open Studies of the University of Glasgow. She gained her PhD from the University of Oxford and is an expert on Egyptian texts. Angela was a founding member of the Current Researches in Egyptology conference series, which she started when she was studying at Oxford. After she moved back to Scotland she served as chair of Egyptology Scotland and she is active in many areas of Egyptology in Scotland's universities, schools and museums. She has published several books and articles on Ancient Egypt and organises an extensive series of courses and lectures at the University of Glasgow, in Egyptology, archaeology and other aspects of the history of the Ancient world. 

Dr Campbell Price

It was with great delight that Egyptology Scotland heard of the appointment of Dr Campbell Price, as the Curator of Egypt and the Sudan at Manchester Museum towards the end of 2011.

Prior to this, Campbell was Curatorial Assistant for the Garstang Museum of Archaeology at the University of Liverpool, where he completed his PhD in Egyptology at the beginning of 2011. 

Campbell was involved with the redevelopment of the Egyptian display as part of the Manchester Museum’s Ancient Worlds galleries redevelopment project. In his ‘spare time’, Campbell Price was previously also the Director of the Glasgow Museums’ Saqqara Geophysical Survey Project. The team used a range of geophysical techniques to map subsurface features at Saqqara, one of Egypt’s most significant religious sites throughout the Pharaonic period. This work revealed many previously unknown structures, and improved our understanding of the sacred landscapes created at Saqqara.

We look forward to welcoming back one of our favourite members in the future to hear more about his work at Manchester Museum and with the Saqqara Project.