On Monday of last week the Israeli Antiquities Authority conducted an unusual memorial service, to mark the 70th anniversary of the death of the British archaeologist and Egyptologist Flinders Petrie. Only one of the people who attended the ceremony at the Protestant Cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, Israeli archaeologist Shimon Gibson, had ever met the deceased - or at least his head. In 1989, while Gibson was working at the Palestine Exploration Fund in London, he was contacted by the Royal College of Surgeons. “They asked me,” Gibson said at the ceremony, “to help identify a head preserved in a jar. They weren’t sure it belonged to Petrie,” Gibson related.
“I arrived armed with photographs of him,” Gibson said. “A laboratory technician brought me the head, took it out of the jar and put it on a plate in front of me. I was a bit embarrassed. I think [the technician] was a little strange because he asked me if I wanted to see the cut. We archaeologists love to see [such things] but not this type exactly. He showed it to me and opened Petrie’s eyes. They were bright blue.” Read more.