The majority of the NHSN’s ancient Egyptian collection derives from donations by 19th century private collectors, including two mummies, and from subscription to early 20th century excavations conducted by the British School of Archaeology in Egypt (BSAE). At the time, many UK museums assisted in funding such expeditions and would receive a selection of the artefacts in return. Nowadays, all objects discovered in any new excavations remain in Egypt.
The BSAE excavations to which the Hancock Museum subscribed include the sites of Abydos, Koptos, the adjacent sites of Qau el-Kebir and Badari in Middle Egypt, which served as burial grounds for almost 5000 years from Predynastic times to the Coptic era, Tell el-Ajjul in Gaza, and Gertrude Caton-Thompson’s work in the Fayum on some of the earliest evidence of Egyptian civilisation.
In 1895, the NHSN also received a collection of 56 ceramic vessels from Naqada donated by Sir Flinders Petrie, who is often called ‘the Father of Archaeology’ for his methods which revolutionised the field. The ceramics date to the predynastic period (c. 4400-3000 BC), but Petrie did not originally identify their age, believing that they represented a new race which had invaded Egypt rather than some of the earliest ancient Egyptians.