Elizabeth Thomas

An American Egyptologist, born in Memphis Tennessee but raised in Mississippi, Elizabeth Thomas is best known for her seminal work on the tombs of the Valley of the Kings. After a late start, she received her B.A. from the University of Mississippi and then, in 1938, traveled to Egypt where she spent most of her time in Luxor. There she was befriended by the American colony of Egyptologists from the University of Chicago’s field headquarters and persuaded to pursue formal study at the University’s Oriental Institute. There she matriculated in Oriental Languages and Civilizations and studied many ancient languages. During World War II, she joined other orientalists in war work for the Army Signal Corps in cryptography. After the war she spent the winter of 1947-48 again at Luxor and received her Master’s degree in the spring of 1948. She then moved to the East Coast and returned to Egypt during the 1949-50 season to record with Alexandre Piankoff and Natacha Rambova texts in the tomb of Ramesses VI in the Valley of the Kings and the pyramid texts of Unas at Saqqara in the north.

In 1953, Thomas returned to Luxor on her own to begin a thorough examination of royal tombs in the Valley of the Queens, most of which had never been published nor even identified, and the king’s tombs, most of which had also not been published well as to plans, elevations and inscription. Although she privately funded most of her field seasons, Thomas also worked under the auspices of the American Research Center in Egypt in whose Newsletter she published reports. Her definitive study, The Royal Necropoleis of Thebes, provided the first published information on many of the queens’ tombs and is an invaluable resource for anyone studying the royal cemeteries of Thebes.

Author of biography: Catharine Roehrig
Includes bibliography? Yes

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Keywords: Valley of the Kings, Thebes, Hollins College, Egypt Plantation, University of Mississippi, Thomas Cook & Sons, Valley of the Queens, Chicago House, Luxor, Thebes, Charles F. Nims, University of Chicago, Oriental Institute, Army Signal Corps, World War II, Pyramid Texts, Alexandre Piankoff, Natacha Rambova, Ramesses VI, saqqara, American Research Center in Egypt, KV55, Rosalind Moss, Howard Carter, Herbert Winlock, Royal Necropleis.

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