In memoriam Martin Davies

Martin Davies, President of the ESB since its foundation, died on 6 June 2023 at the age of 98. He was a fine example of the kind of person who has always been a crucial part of Egyptology in the UK: someone who pursued a career in a completely different field, but was devoted to promoting the study of ancient Egypt. Born in 1924, he became interested in Egyptology at an early age, but was forced by the realities of life to become a solicitor in Bristol.

However, he joined the Egypt Exploration Society – the principal body responsible for UK fieldwork in Egypt – in 1962, and served on its Committee for two decades down to 1986, also dealing with its affairs as honorary legal adviser and as a generous donor.

As well as being a key figure in the ESB’s foundation in 1998, he also played an important role in the foundation of the Sudan Archaeological Research Society. In Bristol, he was also a generous contributor of funds to the University of Bristol’s Amelia Edward’s Memorial lecture series, and was an honorary MA of the University. He was also honoured by election as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in November 1985.

Martin travelled to Egypt on many occasions over four decades, continuing into his 80s, and was a fine photographer, his images adorning books by a number of Egyptologists. He was fortunate to visit Nubia, as far as the 2nd Cataract, twice during the 1960s, and was thus able to take invaluable colour views of places and monuments now lost. He also travelled widely outside the Nile valley, including in Iraq and Iran, and was also deeply involved in researching this family history, including an interesting connection with Lord Byron.

He was greatly supportive of any moves to bring Egyptology to the widest possible audience, and was himself a popular lecturer, not only to Egyptological groups, but also for NADFAS, with his presentations on Nubia bringing his first-hand experience to bear. His flat, with magnificent views over the city of Bristol, and his fine art collection, was a regular meeting-point for Egyptologists passing through the area, where his friendship, wit, charm, modesty and humour always made for a convivial time. Martin’s passing very much marks the end of an era, and he will be sorely missed.

Martin atop the Great Pyramid of Giza         With Professors Aidan Dodson and Salima

1965.                                                                      Ikram, 2008.