British Museum acquires artifacts collected by professor
More than six million ancient Nile Valley artifacts collected by
an SMU anthropology professor have been added to the collections
of the British Museum in London.
Fred Wendorf, the Henderson-Morrison Professor of Prehistory in
the Department of Anthropology in Dedman College, secured most of
the artifacts during excavations conducted from 1963 to 1977 in
Nubia, an ancient country between Egypt and the Sudan. This area
was flooded beginning in 1965 to create Lake Nasser. The artifacts
range in age from half-a-million years old to 5,000 years old and
have helped shed new light on prehistoric humans.
The British Museum contains the largest and most famous collection
of Pharoanic antiquities outside Cairo. The acquisition of this
new material enables the museum to more completely represent the
prehistory of the ancient Nile Valley. Scholars from around the
world are expected to visit the museum to use the collection.
"This collection is an enormously important resource that
can never be replicated," says Vivian Davies, Keeper of Egypt
and Sudanese Antiquities at the British Museum. "It fills a
huge gap in our holdings, extending our archaeological reach both
geographically and chronologically."
Although the British Museum previously collected ancient pieces
of a more aesthetic nature, it is now trying to build its collection
of items that are of archaeological importance, Davies says.
Wendorf's collection includes a 13,000-year-old burial site that
is believed to be the oldest sign of organized warfare. A photo
of this site was featured in the July 2000 issue of National
The collection also includes pottery shards that are believed
to be among the oldest in the world, as well as 70 skeletons from
a single site that have been dated at 13,700 years old.
The collection has formed the basis of several doctoral theses
in archaeology by SMU graduate students.
In addition to the artifacts, Wendorf gave the museum his notes
and slides from his numerous expeditions to Egypt.
He served as leader of the Combined Prehistoric Expedition to
Egypt from 1962-2000. He organized the expedition to salvage Nubian
artifacts from sites that would be destroyed after the building
of the New High Dam and the flooding of Lake Nasser. Wendorf also
has run two schools to help train Egyptians on how to conduct archaeology
in the Sahara.
The artifacts formerly housed at SMU were packed into 38 wooden
crates about five feet square for shipment to England. Some of the
crates went by air, with the remaining crates shipped by sea.
"It is truly an honor for Dr. Wendorf that the results of
his life's work are being housed in the renowned and prestigious
British Museum, accessible to scholars from throughout the world,"
says Provost Ross Murfin. "In this way, SMU is contributing
to global understanding of these important civilizations."