Obituary | Published:

Prof. G. A. Reisner

Nature volume 150, page 84 (18 July 1942) | Download Citation



THE death on June 6 last of George Andrew Reisner, professor of Egyptology at Harvard University, has removed from our midst one of the greatest and most successful excavators Egypt has ever known. His rival for the foremost place could indeed only be Sir William Flinders Petrie, his senior by some ten years, who is happily still with us. To assess the comparative merits of these two would be invidious, but a few sentences may perhaps attempt to sum up the special merits of each. Petrie has been essentially the pioneer. Before him, excavation was but a haphazard affair ; no attention paid to detail, often in fact left to untrained native foremen. Petrie's field-work, starting full fifteen years before that of his American colleague, was the first to inaugurate careful planning of sites, with complete recording of pottery and smaller objects ; and the prompt annual publication of results has been the greatest boon to our science. It cannot be gainsaid that Reisner greatly improved upon Petrie's methods. Never has there been such meticulous regard to the smallest objects, photography applied at every stage, the most careful training and organization of the workpeople, voluminous notes compiled with unremitting patience ; and scholarly philological training at the back of it all. Alas, the inevitable consequence of such minuteness has been that publication has often been unduly deferred. Reisner's books are fairly numerous, always bulky, but their content covers only a fraction of the work that he achieved. It is devoutly to be hoped that those into whose hands his material now passes will repair the miscalculation here deplored. Thus only shall we be enabled to measure the full stature of the man, and derive complete profit from the astonishing achievements of his career.

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