Margaret Benson

The daughter of the presiding Archbishop of Canterbury and part of a highly intellectual and literary family circle (three brothers were noted authors), Margaret performed well at Oxford and was also an accomplished artist. At age 30 she was the first woman to be granted an archaeological concession by the Egyptian government. Her efforts were concentrated on the Mut complex of the Temple of Karnak for three seasons of excavation (1895-97). Her brother Fred and her friend Janet Gourlay helped the semi-invalid Margaret with the running of the expedition and professional advice and help was given by Egyptologists Eduard Naville and Percy Newberry. Although deemed likely to be unimportant, the site actually yielded dozens of statues, many of artistic importance from various periods. The history of the temple was traced back to the reign of Hatshepsut. An accurate plan was drawn and the excavation published as the Temple of Mut in Asher. Margaret was subject to many ailments including arthritis, which had brought her to Egypt for winter refuge. After her expedition, she continued to write and also organized the St. Paul Association for Biblical Study, but in 1907 suffered a mental breakdown which incapacitated her for the remainder of her life.

Author of biography: William H. Peck
Includes bibliography? Yes

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Keywords: Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, Rugby School, Wellington College, Lincoln, Truro, Luxor, the goddess Mut, Arthur Christopher Benson, Edward Frederick Benson, Robert Hugh Benson, Janet Gourlay, Lady Margaret Hall, Gertrude Bell, John Ruskin, Lord Carnarvon, Howard Carter, Aswan, Philae, Edouard Navill, Deir el-Bahri, Egypt Exploration Fund, Asher, A Beato, Sekhmet, Karnak, Napoleonic Expedition, Karl Lepsius, August Mariette, James Burton, Robert Hay, Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, Mena House, Helwan, Luxor Hotel, Amenemhet, Amenhotep III, Senenmut, Bakenkhonsu, Ramesses III, Lady Jane Lindsey, Mentuemhet

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Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists
Published by the University of Michigan Press, 2004