All posts by Thomas Martin

The Archeological Contributions of Sir Flinders Petrie

The article “The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology,” written by Barbara Adams in 1984, describes the career and legacy of Sir Flinders Petrie, who is considered to be the father of modern archaeology. Adams writes about the many accomplishments of Petrie, which support her thesis that Petrie’s findings, located in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, serve as a continuously expanding wealth of knowledge of Egyptian culture.

Barbara Adams began her career working as a scientific assistant in entomology at the British Museum of Natural History (“Barbara Adams, 1945-2002” 1). After seeing the Hollywood movie “Valley of the Kings,” Adams was inspired to study Egypt, so she sought employment at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. There, she registered items, answered inquiries, and performed conservation work on artifacts. After an archeological dig in Egypt, she wrote Ancient Hierakonpolis, her first of many books on the topic of Egypt and Egyptian culture. She was soon promoted to assistant curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology, and is credited with writing the museum’s first guide book for its collection. Although Barbara Adams did not have formal education in her field of work, she was considered an expert on Pre-Dynastic Egypt (“Barbara Adams, 1945-2002” 5). One possible bias of Adams could be the fact that she worked for the museum that Sir Flinders Petrie established; this certainly must have influenced her opinions about Petrie.

Adams begins her article by summarizing the work of Petrie in his early years, and writing about his contributions to the study of Egyptian culture. According to Adams, Petrie began his career in Egypt in 1881 (240). Over the course of about thirty-five years, Petrie excavated forty-three sites, published thirty-seven reports, and also published twelve catalogues. In 1923, he retired and moved to Palestine, where he continued to publish reports until his death. Adams believes that Petrie’s findings are extremely valuable to the academic society’s current knowledge of Egyptian technology and culture. Adams’s primary sources include a wide array of artifacts from The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. One specific item that Adams finds particularly interesting is a reconstructed statue of a lion, weighing half a ton and measuring only four and half feet in length; it is said to have been during the First Dynasty of Egypt (242). Adams cites many other important artifacts that were also found by Petrie, before explaining their current use. Adams says that today, Petrie’s collection of artifacts is unparalleled (244). The primary role of Petrie’s collection is to foster the study of Egyptian culture within the academic society, but it is also used to educate undergraduate students.
The main source for this article is Barbara Adams herself; therefore, her account of Petrie’s career and accomplishments serve as a secondary source. Because of this, the validity of the article should be questioned. Adams does include descriptions of a number of important artifacts from Petrie’s collection, which are considered primary sources; these improve the validity of the article, and strongly support her thesis. The information is this article can easily be cross-referenced with other scholarly articles on the same subject in order to ensure its content is valid.

The strong point of the article occurs toward the middle, in the section called “The Unique Nature of the Collections.” At this point, Adams has already described Petrie’s career. She then begins to describe why his collection of artifacts is so important. This section is very interesting because Adams includes pictures of each item that she describes, which allows the reader to better understand the subject matter. The only apparent weakness of the article is the lack of primary sources on Petrie’s background. Adams forces the reader to trust her statements because there is no support behind them.

The subject of this article is quite interesting. Sir Flinders Petrie seems to have devoted most of his life to the collection and study of Egyptian cultural elements. The article is well-written, and clearly states why Petrie was so crucial to the academic society’s current beliefs on these elements. Adams provides strong evidence that shows the importance of Petrie’s findings, but she does not provide any references for the background information she gives about him. I would recommend this article to undergraduates who are interested in the growing subject of Egyptology. Petrie’s discoveries provide the foundation for this topic and are crucial to fully understanding it.