The Egypt Society of Bristol was founded on 28 January 1998 by a group of enthusiasts who had come together in the autumn of 1996 to take evening classes in Egyptology at the University of Bristol with Dr (now Professor) Aidan Dodson and the late Pip Jones. It aims to offer at least six lectures a year between October and June., with an emphasis on ancient Egypt, but there may also be talks on more modern topics, as well as people associated with the country and its exploration.
Egyptology in Bristol
Bristol was the home – and burial place, in Henbury Churchyard – of one of the most important figures in the history of British Egyptology – Amelia Blandford Edwards, founder of both the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society), and of the UK’s first Chair of Egyptology, at University College London. Bristol Museum was, indeed, an early subscriber to the Fund’s excavations, and holds a very fine collection of Egyptian antiquities. It is also possible that Sarah Belzoni, wife of the celebrated explorer Giovanni, was also a Bristolian.
In the late 1890s, University College Bristol, soon to become Bristol University, was one of the very first institutions to teach Egyptian hieroglyphs, two early students (Gerald Wainwright and Ernest MacKay) later becoming important figures in Egyptian field archaeology. The language was taught by Ernest Sibree (b. 1859) down to his death in 1927, but after this the subject disappeared from the University curriculum until the 1990s
However, an Egyptian link was maintained through the fine collections of the City Museum and Art Gallery. Its post-war Curator, Leslie Grinsell had a deep interest in ancient Egypt, and was the author of an excellent book about the pyramids – written while he was serving with the RAF in Egypt during the Second World War!
Egyptian archaeology returned to the University in the mid-1990s, with and is still incorporated in some of the teaching units in what is now the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology. In addition to the ESB’s lecture programme, other events, including evening classes, study days – and even trips to Egypt – are provided by its sister-organization, the Kemet Klub.