John Gardner Wilkinson

Sir John Gardner Wilkinson ( born October 5, 1797 in Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, † October 29, 1875 in Llandovery, Wales ) was a British Egyptologist. He is considered the founder of the British Egyptology.


His parents were Rev. John Wilkinson and Mary Ann Gardner. The parents died early, and he was already in 1807 an orphan. Wilkinson attended school in Harrow and began in 1816 with the study at Exeter College, Oxford, which he, however, in 1818 not finish broke off to join the army.

Wilkinson was very fond of traveling, in the years 1817 and 1818, he moved to the European continent. In 1819, he traveled again to France, Germany and Italy. In Naples he met in 1820 the archaeologist Sir William Gell, who persuaded him to give up his military service and to study archeology and hieroglyphics under his leadership. In October 1821 Wilkinson traveled for the first time to Egypt. He was 24 years old when he arrived in Alexandria, a year before the deciphering of hieroglyphics by Jean -François Champollion. Until that time, Egypt was the target rustic adventurer as Henry Salt, Giovanni Battista Belzoni or Drovetti Bernardino, the intrigues and violence began, to open graves and get to suspected treasures. Wilkinson's arrival marked a radical change in thinking: his goal was to document the objects in the field ( before they were but then removed ).

In the years 1824 and 1827 to 1828 he directed excavations at Thebes / West, especially in the Valley of the Kings. He built in 1826 a house in Gurna, ran with sketchpad, brush and brown oil paint by the Theban necropolis and drew nearly all the inscriptions from which he found. There was no hieroglyph that it was not worthy to be recorded by him. In the Valley of the Kings, he numbered with the color of the royal tombs. 21 open graves were known, along with four more in the West Valley. This system is considered to be number today. Based on the inscriptions in the royal tombs Wilkinson developed a chronology of the New Kingdom and created a plan of the ancient Thebes.

Wilkinson returned to England in 1833 and was knighted in 1839. Between 1841 and 1849 he again visited Egypt and conducted research in the Wadi Natrun, but also in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Montenegro. The Winter 1849/1850 he spent with the study of the Royal Canon of Turin and published a new translation. In 1852 he became the D.C.L. ( Dr. jur. ) Oxford University appointed.

His last trip to Egypt was from 1855 to 1856. He worked at the Labyrinth of Hawara and identified this as the funerary temple of Amenemhat III .. In Amarna he was the first who charted this area, but also Beni Hassan and Gebel Barkal was attended by Wilkinson and the grave paintings documented.

In 1856 Wilkinson married Caroline Catherine Lucas ( 1822-1881 ), an actress and botanist, and lived in Tenby / Pembrokeshire on the coast of South Wales until 1866.

Wilkinson's records are now in 56 large-format books in the Bodleian Library in Oxford and are still used for research purposes.


  • Materia Hieroglyphica, 2 vols ( 1828-1830 );
  • Topographical Survey of Thebes (1830 );
  • Topography of Thebes, and General View of Egypt (1835 );
  • Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, 3 vols (1837 );
  • A Handbook for Egypt (1847 );
  • Dalmatia and Montenegro (1848 ), 2 vols Dt. Ed in 1849 ( Part 2 of digitized from the holdings of the Institute of East and Southeast European Studies ). ;
  • The Architecture of Ancient Egypt, 2 vols (1850 );
  • The Egyptians in the time of the Pharaohs (1871 );
  • Desert plants of Egypt (1887 ).