Author and Egyptologist Chris Naunton on swashbuckling explorers and unsung heroes
“One of the enormous images that required special photography that day at the EES was the Pendlebury drawing. John Pendlebury is a bit of a hero of mine. He was a good archaeologist and managed to make himself into an expert in the ancient cultures of both Egypt and Crete, while also carefully cultivating an image as an athletic, swashbuckling sort of adventurer. I sometimes think I might have found him a bit brash and self-regarding if I’d ever met him but I admire his iconoclasm and insistence that archaeology was meaningless if it wasn’t made accessible to the wider public.
It’s no surprise therefore that his excavations at Amarna are among the best documented, both in terms of the scientific recording but in other ways too, most strikingly in the films he made of the work and life on site. Facsimiles like the one we photographed at the EES were made as a scientific record of the things the team found, in this case a beautifully decorated lintel from the house of Akhenaten’s master builder, Hatiay. It was never published – presumably as printing in colour was expensive and perhaps considered unnecessary for scientific purposes – but it means this beautiful drawing has never had the exposure it deserves. Importantly, it was made not by Pendlebury who, as Director of the project and author of the publications, gets all the credit for the work, but by his wife, Hilda, one of a number of unsung heroes who were part of this team and others like it.”