Although his grandfather, Capt. Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), was the first to circumnavigate Australia, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) was fascinated by the Egyptian pyramids as a boy and devoted his whole life to the systematic excavation and recording of ancient finds in and around them. Born in Kent, he learnt surveying from his father and in 1880 published the results of his 6-year study of Stonehenge, just prior to leaving for Egypt.
Flinders Petrie’s exacting procedures set the fledgling science of Egyptology firmly on its feet and he taught and inspired later excavators such as Howard Carter of Tutankhamun fame. His scrutiny of every shovelful and precise noting of the positions of mainly pottery pieces in the soil stratification led to his timeline method still currently used.
He investigated dozens of sites including Giza, Luxor and Palestine, and his most famous discoveries were:-
- pieces of a huge seated statue of Ramses II (1884);
- underground tunnels housing a massive one-piece granite ‘box’ precision-carved with incredible accuracy probably impossible today, under the Lahun Pyramid (1888/89);
- the Merneptah Stele whose hieroglyphs include the first known mention of ‘Israel’ (1896);
- a total of 151 painted portraits formerly attached to mummy heads (1887 and 1910); and
- an 11-ton granite sphinx of Ramses II (1913).
(Images: Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0 (left) & Public domain (right))