Dissecting Pharoahs: Elliot Smith in Egypt in the 1900s

Grafton Elliot Smith (1873-1937) is a great forgotten Australian – a world authority on brain anatomy and human evolution, and a controversial amateur anthropologist/archaeologist, whose theory of cultural diffusion caused a great stir. He was in Egypt as professor of anatomy when teams of famous archaeologists (including the Hearst expedition. George Reisner, even Flinders Petrie) were excavating the Valley of the Kings. From 1900 to 1909 he dissected thousands of mummies, especially “dessicated brains” found in Egyptian skulls, work never done before (too gruesome!)People he worked with included the psychologist/anthropologist W. H. R. Rivers and the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb Howard Carter. Have you been watching the TV miniseries Tutankhamun? seems reasonably accurate (minus the romantic bits).

For more on all this read my book Grafton Elliot Smith, Egyptology and the Diffusion of Culture (Sussex, 2012).

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