Margaret Benson

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For the botanist, see Margaret Jane Benson.
Margaret Benson
Margaret Benson.jpg
Born 16 June 1865
Died 13 May 1916
Priory, Roehampton, England
Nationality British
Known for Egyptology

Margaret Benson (16 June 1865 – 13 May 1916) was an English author and amateur Egyptologist and one of the six children of Edward White Benson, an Anglican clergyman (later Archbishop of Canterbury), and his wife Mary Sidgwick Benson, the sister of philosopher Henry Sidgwick. Margaret was one of the first women to be admitted to Oxford University, where she attended Lady Margaret Hall.

She was the first woman to be granted a concession to excavate in Egypt. With her companion, Janet Gourlay, she excavated for three seasons (1895-97) in the Temple of the Goddess Mut, Mut Complex, a part of Karnak, Thebes.

She suffered from frail health most of her life and was not able to continue the excavation after 1897. In 1907, she suffered a severe mental breakdown and died in 1916 (in the Priory, Roehampton) at the age of 51.

There was a strain of tragedy in her family, in that several members suffered from mental illnesses, probably bipolar disorder. She had five siblings, none of whom married. One brother was the popular novelist E. F. Benson. Another was A. C. Benson, the author of the lyrics to Elgar's "Land of Hope and Glory" and master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Her youngest brother, Robert Hugh Benson, became a minister of the Church of England before converting to Catholicism and writing many popular novels.


  • Benson, Margaret and Gourlay, Janet. The Temple of Mut in Asher: An account of the excavation of the temple and of the religious representations and objects found therein, as illustrating the history of Egypt and the main religious ideas of the Egyptians, London, John Murray, 1899


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