Tag Archives: Flinders Petrie

The Man behind the Collection

A big thank you goes to the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford for the brilliant picture of who they believe to be Brunton asleep, possibly at Matmar!

A big thank you goes to the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford for the brilliant picture of who they believe to be Brunton asleep, possibly at Matmar!

Eleanor Wilkinson, Collections Assistant at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology writes:

I thought I would spend this week’s blog post telling you a bit more about the man behind the MAA’s Store Stories project, Guy Brunton. Born in London in 1878,[1] Brunton’s interest in Egyptology was first kindled when he won a book on the subject as a prize at school.[2]

After school, and a short interlude in business in South Africa, Brunton returned to his studies as a pupil under Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie at University College London where he spent two years learning of the archaeology of ancient Egypt.[3] Once completing his time at university, Brunton accompanied Petrie in his excavations of Senusret II’s tomb complex in Hawara, and it is for the archaeological finds discovered here that Brunton is best known. In 1913 the shaft tomb of princess Sit-Hathor-Iunet, a daughter of Senusret II, was excavated by Brunton and Petrie just south of the king’s pyramid. Robbers had ransacked the princess’s tomb, however they had not found the jewellery, cosmetic equipment or canopic jars hidden in a recess in the tomb wall. This great discovery was called the ‘Treasure of Lahun’.[4]

After the First World War, Brunton returned to Egypt and continued to excavate in the Faiyum region. In 1920 he went to Medinet Gurob with Reginald Engelbach where they excavated an Old Kingdom low-status cemetery. Though low-status Brunton was able to demonstrate, through the grave goods, the importance of burial rituals for different levels of the social strata.[5] Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Brunton continued to excavate over 50 sites just south of the Faiyum, in the el-Badari district, whilst he was the Assistant Keeper of the Cairo Museum.[6] This work took him to Qau, Badari, Matmar and Mostagedda,[7] and it is from this period of excavation that the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s material from Matmar originates. Some of the most notable material from Brunton’s Matmar excavation, as mentioned in the British Museum Quarterly, was a deposit of carved hippopotamus bones found in a large pit near a temple dedicated to the god Seth, some of which you can see in our picture this week.[8] This is now amongst the material that is currently being researched and repacked as part of the Store Stories project.

MAA blog picture 1 blog post 3

Brunton retired to South Africa with his wife, Winifred Brunton, a watercolour artist known for her illustrations of ancient Egyptian art, in 1948 and died later that year in White River, East Transvaal.[9]


[1] Wikipedia, Guy Brunton, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Brunton [Accessed 23 June 2013].

[2] The Times, Wednesday November 10 1948, p. 7.

[3] Ibid.

[4] An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt, Kathryn A. Bard, (Blackwell Publications, Oxford: 2008), pp. 183-84.

[5] Ibid., p. 160.

[6] The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Expedition to Egypt 1919, http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/nn/fal94_breasted.html [Accessed 23 June 2013]

[7] Ancient Egypt Anatomy of a Civilisation, Barry J. Kemp, (Routledge, London: 2004), p.239.

[8] The Brunton Archaeological Expedition, The British Museum Quarterly, vol. 6 no. 1, (June 1931), pp. 29-30.

[9] The Times, Wednesday November 10 1948, p. 7.