Amelia Edwards: The Godmother of Egyptology

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An extraordinarily talented woman who excelled in music, art, writing, and public speaking. English novelist, journalist, traveler, and Egyptologist, Amelia Edwards was born in London in 1831.

Amelia travelled to many countries for business and fun, arriving in Egypt in the autumn of 1873, to escape Europe’s rain and cold weather. She toured Egypt, discovering a fascination with the land and its cultures, both ancient and modern. Travelling southwards from Cairo in a houseboat, she visited Philae and ultimately reached Abu Simbel, where she discovered a small square chamber. In her excitement at the initial discovery, she fell to her knees next to the small opening and began digging with her bare hands.

Amelia returned to London and published her vivid book entitled A Thousand Miles Up the Nile—a description of her Nile voyage—in 1877, becoming an immediate bestseller.

Edwards’ travels in Egypt made her aware of the increasing threats to the ancient monuments by tourism and modern development as well; she witnessed thefts and the physical destruction of ancient sites. She became determined to combat those threats by the force of public awareness and scientific endeavor, becoming a tireless public advocate for the research and preservation of ancient monuments.

She self-educated herself in hieroglyphics, becoming a well-respected expert in the language. She received many samples in hieroglyphics from all over the world for translation. She took great care in obtaining facts and made serious efforts in her research and self-education, which set her apart from the other writers whose approach was much less informed and more sensational.

She co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund in 1882 in order to study, conserve, and protect ancient sites in Egypt;  a fund that is still going strong (please visit: www.EES.ac.uk). Amelia Edwards was pivotal in securing hundreds of pounds for the fund through writing popular articles about the discoveries, thousands of letters, and talks around the world.

Her enthusiasm and determination to preserve the past encouraged young archaeologists to explore Egypt and study the ancient sites as they should have been, such as Flinders Petrie, the Father of Modern Archeology.

On her passing away, she stipulated that her library of over 3000 books, her private collection, engravings and sketches, along with 5,000 pounds would go to support the Edwards Chair of Egyptology at the University College of London. Her collection is the core of what is today the “Petrie Museum”; numerically, it exceeds Petrie’s excavations findings and his collection purchased from Egypt and Europe.

Amelia passed away on 15 April 1892, and was buried in a grave marked by an obelisk and ankh sign. There is no doubt that Egyptology and archaeology owe a lot to this extraordinary generous lady. It is no wonder that she is known as the “Godmother of Egyptology” in England till this day.

To know more about Amelia Edwards; kindly watch this documentary:


References
www.ucl.ac.uk
www.ees.ac.uk
archyfantasies.com
trowelblazers.com
www.brown.edu
 

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