The Petrie Museum is a university museum. It was set up as a teaching resource for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London (UCL). Both the department and the museum were created in 1892 through the bequest of the writer Amelia Edwards (1831-1892).
Amelia was an English novelist, journalist, traveler, and Egyptologist. Her literary successes included the ghost story “The Phantom Coach” (1864), the novels Barbara’s History (1864) and Lord Brackenbury (1880), and the travelogue of Egypt A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877). She also edited a poetry anthology published in 1878. In 1882, she co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund. She gained the nickname “Godmother of Egyptology” for her contribution.
She donated her collection of several hundred Egyptian antiquities, many of historical importance. However, the collection grew to international stature in scope and scale thanks mainly to the extraordinary excavating career of the first Edwards Professor, William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942).
Professor Petrie, commonly known as Flinders Petrie, was an English Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology. His work allowed precise measurement and dating of ancient monuments. His particular interest was in Ancient Egypt, beginning with the Great Pyramid of Giza, and excavating numerous sites of Greek origin from the Mycenaean civilization. Among his significant discoveries was the stele of Merneptah, which contains the earliest known reference to Israel.
Knighted for his contributions in archaeology, Petrie was fascinated by the Holy Land, spending a lot of time in Palestine and living the last years of his life in Jerusalem. Petrie can be considered the founder of systematic research methods in archaeology.
His work Inductive Metrology: Recovery of Ancient Measures from the Monuments, which he wrote in his early twenties, described an innovative and precise method of determining the units of measurement used in constructing ancient monuments. His painstaking recording and study of artifacts set new standards in the field. By linking styles of pottery with time periods, he was the first to use seriation, a new method for establishing the chronology of a site.
The export of antiquities from Egypt and Sudan is now illegal and the collection – of around 80,000 objects – has ceased to grow. Its importance was officially recognized in 1998 when it was designated by the UK government as of outstanding importance. With the help of government funding, the museum has made the entire collection accessible in an online catalog.
Some of the Petrie Museum’s noted “Firsts” include linen from Egypt 5000 BC, Egyptian metal iron beads, the earliest cylinder seal in Egypt 3500 BC, oldest wills on papyrus paper, and the largest shrine architectural drawing 1300 BC.
They also have the oldest dress of a dancer from the Pyramid Age. about 2400 BC, two long-sleeved robes and a suit of armor from the same date. There are works of art from Akhenaten’s city at Amarna:
colorful tiles, carvings, and frescoes, and from many other important Egyptian and Nubian settlements and burial sites. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Roman period mummy portraits (first to second centuries AD).
Coming from documented excavations the collection of amulets, faience, objects of daily use, tools and weapons, weights and measures, stone vessels, and jewelry provides a unique insight into how people have lived and died in the Nile Valley.