David Randall-MacIver

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David Randall-MacIver
Born31 October 1873
Died30 April 1945
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Known forexcavations at Great Zimbabwe
Scientific career

David Randall-MacIver FBA (31 October 1873 – 30 April 1945) was a British-born archaeologist,[1] who later became an American citizen. He is most famous for his excavations at Great Zimbabwe which provided the first solid evidence that the site was built by Shona peoples.

Randall-MacIver began his career working with Flinders Petrie in Egypt, uncovering the mortuary temple of Senwosret III. He moved to America when he was appointed as Egyptology curator at the Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania, in 1905.[2]

He initiated research into the relationship between Egypt and Nubia, uncovering some of the earliest evidence of ancient Nubian culture, dating back to 3100BCE. Between 1905 and 1906 Randall-MacIver conducted the first detailed study of Great Zimbabwe. The absence of any artefacts of non-African origin led him to conclude that the structure was built by local people. Earlier scholars had speculated that the structure had been built by Arab or Phoenician traders. Between 1907 and 1910 he excavated the site of Karanog, a former provincial capital of the Kingdom of Kush.

Randall-MacIver left Penn museum in 1911, becoming librarian of the American Geographical Society up to 1914, when he left to work as an intelligence officer in the First World War. In 1921 he moved to Italy to study Etruscan archaeology. He remained in Italy during World War II, later assisting the US army to preserve historical monuments.[2]


  • Thomson, Arthur; Randall-MacIver, David (1905). The Ancient Races of the Thebaid. Clarendon Press.
  • Randall-MacIver, D.; Woolley, C. Leonard (1909). Areika; with a chapter on Meroitic inscriptions by Francis Llewellyn Griffith


  1. ^ ‘RANDALL-MACIVER, David’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 1920–2007; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Oct 2012 accessed 7 Feb 2014
  2. ^ a b Jenifer H Wegner, David Randall-MacIver: Explorer of Abydos and Curator of the Egyptian Section, Penn Museum, vol 48, no. 2, pp. 13-14

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