John Garstang

Archaeologist, Academic and Collector of Antiquities

John Garstang was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, on 5th May 1876, the sixth child of Walter Garstang and Matilda Mary Garstang (née Wardley). He was educated at Blackburn Grammar School, and in 1895 he obtained a scholarship to read mathematics at Jesus College, Oxford. Whilst at university his interest in archaeology grew, and from 1897 he spent ten years involved with research and excavations at various sites of Roman Britain, particularly at Ribchester, Melandra Castle, Richborough and Brough-on-Noe.

In 1899, Garstang went to Egypt, to work with Flinders Petrie at Abydos for the Egyptian Research Account. Whilst at Abydos Petrie writes a letter to his wife, Hilda, and mentions (12 February 1899) the work of his new assistant, “The cemeteries are flourishing and Garstang is doing finely, paying more for bakshish than for wages.” Garstang returned to Egypt in 1900 and 1901 to continue working for the Egyptian Research Account, publishing the excavation of Abydos cemetery E as ‘El Arabah’ (London, 1901), and then his next fieldwork projects, ‘Mahasna and Bet Khallaf’ (London, 1902).

In 1902 he moved to Liverpool and was appointed Honorary Reader in Egyptian Archaeology at the University of Liverpool. Through characteristically tireless campaigning he was able to found the first Institute of Archaeology in Britain, in 1904 (now the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology). Each year Garstang would go on fieldwork, sponsored by a committee who would be rewarded with a share of the finds the Egyptian authorities granted to the excavator for export. In 1907 he was appointed John Rankin Professor of the Methods and Practice of Archaeology, a chair he held until his retirement in 1941. Garstang was a prolific excavator working each year at numerous sites in Egypt, Sudan, the Levant and Anatolia. After World War One his main energies were concentrated in the Near East. In Palestine he was the first director of the Department of Antiquities from 1920-1926. He also found time for exploration and his most important excavation was at Jericho, in the Jordan Valley, between 1930-1936. In 1947 he founded the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, Turkey, and became its first director, and later president.

Garstang donated his some of his archaeology collection to World Museum in 1947 (mostly finds from Meroë in the Sudan) and then in 1949 he sold the remainder to the museum (mostly finds from Abydos, but also a good amount from all of the sites he had worked at and visited in Egypt and the Near East). He married in 1907 Marie Louise (née Bergés) of Toulouse and they had one son (John Bergés Eustance) and one daughter (Meroë). He died in Beirut on 12th September 1956.
  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Nationality
    British: English
  • Born
  • Place of birth
    Europe: Northern Europe: UK: England: Lancashire: Blackburn
  • Died
  • Place of death
    Asia: Western Asia: Lebanon: Beirut
  • Cause of death
    Unknown or unrecorded

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