Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London is part of University College London Museums and Collections. The museum contains over 80,000 objects and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese material.[1]

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.jpg
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Science Library, Malet Place
Established1892 (1892)
Coordinates51°31′25″N 0°7′59″W / 51.52361°N 0.13306°W / 51.52361; -0.13306
Collection sizeOver 80,000 objects
WebsiteOfficial website


Upper part of a statuette of an Egyptian woman and her husband. 18th Dynasty. From the Amelia Edwards Collection now housed in the Petrie Museum

The museum was established as a teaching resource for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College at the same time as the department was established in 1892.[2] The initial collection was donated by the writer Amelia Edwards.[3][4] The first Edwards Professor, William Matthew Flinders Petrie, conducted many important excavations, and in 1913 he sold his collections of Egyptian antiquities to University College, creating the Flinders Petrie Collection of Egyptian Antiquities, and transforming the museum into one of the leading collections outside Egypt. The collection was first put on display in June 1915.[5] Petrie excavated dozens of major sites in the course of his career, including the Roman Period cemeteries at Hawara,[6][page needed] famous for the beautiful mummy portraits in classical Roman style;[7][8] Amarna, the city of king Akhenaten;[9] and the first true pyramid, at Meydum, where he uncovered some of the earliest evidence for mummification.[10]

The collection and library were arranged in galleries within the main building at the university and a guidebook was published in 1915. Initially, the collection's visitors were students and academics; it was not then open to the general public. Petrie retired from University College London (UCL) in 1933,[11] though his successors continued to add to the collections, excavating in other parts of Egypt and Sudan. During the Second World War (1939–1945) the collection was packed up and moved out of London for safekeeping. In the early 1950s it was moved into a former stable, where it remains adjacent to the DMS Watson science library of UCL.

Current descriptionEdit

Fragments and slabs of stelae. Inscriptions Aisle

The museum is at Malet Place, near Gower Street and the University College London science library. Admission is free, no booking required, and as of March 2022 the museum is open Tuesday to Friday between 1 pm and 5 pm, and Saturday between 11 am and 5 pm. Researchers accommodated on Mondays between 10 am and 1 pm and 2 pm and 4 pm via prior appointment.[12]

The museum has an exhibitions and events programme for adults and families,[13] and has an active Friends of the Petrie Museum organisation allowing members to attend lectures, museum seminars, tours to Egypt and Egyptian collections, social events, and so on. As well, the Friends raise funds towards the conservation, publication and display of the Petrie Museum's outstanding collection.[14]

Organisation and collectionsEdit

Display case at previous entrance to the Petrie (prior to refurbishment), with figurines and statuettes

The museum is split into three galleries. The main gallery (housed above the old stables) contains many of the museum's small domestic artefacts, mummy portraits and cases, and the Inscriptions Aisle. The Inscriptions Aisle displays tablets, including Pyramid Texts, written in hieroglyphics, hieratic, Greek, and Arabic, and organised according to material type. Another gallery (the pottery gallery) contains many cabinets of pottery, clothing, jewellery, and shabti figures, arranged chronologically. A new entrance gallery was refurbished in 2019[15] which provides an insight into the history of the museum, its collections, and notable figures.

The entire collection has been digitised and the catalogue can be browsed and consulted online.[16]

Notable holdingsEdit

Limestone head of a king (its provenance is unknown and has no inscriptions). Thought by Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London, to be Narmer, on the basis of the similarity (according to Petrie[17]) to the head of Narmer on the Narmer Palette. This has not been generally accepted. According to Trope, Quirke & Lacovara,[18] the suggestion that it is Narmer is "unlikely". Alternatively, they suggest the Fourth Dynasty king Khufu. Stevenson[19] also identifies it as Khufu. Charron[20] identifies it as a king of the Thinite Period (the first two dynasties), but does not believe it can be assigned to any particular king. Wilkinson[21] describes it as "probably Second Dynasty".

The collection contains some significant 'firsts': one of the earliest pieces of linen from Egypt (about 5000 BC); two lions from the temple of Min at Koptos, from the first group of monumental sculpture (about 3000 BC, these are located outside the provost's office in the Wilkins Building on Gower Street); a fragment from the Palermo Stone (first kinglist or calendar, about 2900 BC); the earliest example of metal from Egypt, the first worked iron beads; the earliest 'cylinder seal' in Egypt (about 3500 BC); the oldest wills on papyrus paper; the oldest gynaecological papyrus and the only veterinary papyrus from ancient Egypt (access available upon request); and the largest architectural drawing, showing a shrine (about 1300 BC).

Costume is another strength of the collection.[22][verification needed][page needed] In addition to the Tarkhan Dress (the 'oldest dress') there is a unique beadnet dress of a dancer from the Pyramid Age (about 2400 BC),[23] two long sleeved robes of the same date, a suit of armour from the palace of Memphis, as well as socks and sandals from the Roman period. The collection contains works of art from Akhenaten’s city at Amarna: colourful tiles, carvings and frescoes, 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).[8][page needed]

The collection also includes material from the Ptolemaic, Roman and Islamic periods.[24]

There is a substantial archive held in the museum, including excavation records, correspondence and photographs relating to excavations led by Flinders Petrie. There are additionally documents relating to the distribution of finds from fieldwork to museums worldwide between 1887 and 1949.[25]


Interior of the museum

The museum specialises in objects of daily use, containing over 80,000 objects and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese material.[26] It only ranks behind the collections of the Cairo Museum, The British Museum and the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin in number and quality of items.[according to whom?][citation needed] The museum contains many 'firsts', such as the Tarkhan Dress, confirmed as the world's oldest woven garment.[27]

Published worksEdit

In 2007 Left Coast Press published Living Images: Egypian Funerary Portraits in the Petrie Museum, edited by Janet Picton, Stephen Quirke, and Paul C. Roberts. This book is on the Roman mummy portraits from the Fayum and details their conservation work.

In 2014 Bloomsbury Press published Archaeology of Race which "explores the application of racial theory to interpret the past in Britain during the late Victorian and Edwardian period."[28] The book, written by Debbie Chalice, specifically focuses on how Flinders Petrie applied the ideas of Francis Galton on inheritance and race to the discipline of archaeology.

In 2015 UCL Press published a multi-author compilation of articles, The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: Characters and Collections, which is available in both print and via a free open access download.[6] It is edited by Alice Stevenson.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "UCL Petrie Museum Online Catalogue". UCL Petrie Museum. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  2. ^ "UCL: The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology". Museum Mile. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  3. ^ Moon, Brenda E. (2006). More Usefully Employed: Amelia B. Edwards, Writer, Traveller and Campaigner for Ancient Egypt. London: Egypt Exploration Society. ISBN 9780856981692. OCLC 850990713.
  4. ^ Willey, Russ. "Rehumanising the past. Petrie Museum, behind Gower Street, Bloomsbury". Hidden London. London, ENG. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  5. ^ Stevenson 2015, p. 15.
  6. ^ a b Stevenson 2015.
  7. ^ "Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt". The Met. 8 February 2000. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  8. ^ a b Picton, Janet; Quirke, Stephen; Roberts, Paul C., eds. (2007). Living Images: Egyptian Funerary Portraits in the Petrie Museum. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. ISBN 9781598742510. OCLC 878764269.
  9. ^ "The Central City - Amarna The Place". Amarna Project. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  10. ^ UCL. "UCL – London's Global University". UCL CULTURE. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Accessing Virtual Egypt".
  12. ^ Petrie Museum Staff (24 August 2016). "Petrie Museum". Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  13. ^ UCL. "Get Hands on with ancient Egypt". UCL CULTURE. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  14. ^ Petrie Museum Staff (28 February 2017). "Friends of the Petrie Museum Membership". Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  15. ^ "Petrie and Edwards: Gateway to the World of Egyptology".
  16. ^ Petrie Museum Staff (28 February 2017). "UCL Petrie Museum Online Catalogue". Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  17. ^ Petrie 1939, p. 78.
  18. ^ Trope, Quirke & Lacovara 2005, p. 18.
  19. ^ Stevenson 2015, p. 44.
  20. ^ Charron 1990, p. 97.
  21. ^ Wilkinson 1999.
  22. ^ Hall, Rosalind M. (1986). Egyptian Textiles. Shire Publications. ISBN 9780852638002.[full citation needed]
  23. ^ "Bead net dress". 25 October 2016.
  24. ^ Petrie Museum Staff (2 March 2013). "Trails and Resources". Archived from the original on 2 March 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  25. ^ "Homepage / الصفحة الرئيسية – Artefacts of Excavation".
  26. ^ UCL. "UCL – London's Global University". UCL CULTURE.
  27. ^ "UCL Culture Collections Online | Details". Retrieved 12 March 2022.
  28. ^ "The Archaeology of Race". Bloomsbury. Retrieved 12 March 2022.


Open access pdf download.

  • Trope, Betsy Teasley; Quirke, Stephen; Lacovara, Peter (2005), Excavating Egypt: great discoveries from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College, London, Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University.
  • Wilkinson, TAH (1999), Early Dynastic Egypt, London; New York: Routledge.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit