Harry Charles Purvis Bell

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HCP Bell, c. 1890.

Harry Charles Purvis Bell, CCS (21 September 1851 – 6 September 1937), more often known as HCP Bell, was a British civil servant and the first Commissioner of Archaeology in Ceylon.

Early life[edit]

Born in British India in 1851, he was sent to England for his education at Cheltenham College.[1]

Civil service career[edit]

Without going to university, Bell came to Ceylon as a civil officer in the Ceylon Civil Service and went on to serve as a customs officer. He thereafter served as a District Judge.


Appointed an official archaeologist, in July 1890 the Governor of Ceylon, Sir Arthur Gordon, appointed Bell as the first Archaeological Commissioner and Head of the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon.[2] he carried out many excavations in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for the Archaeological Survey during an appointment running from 1890 to 1912 and claimed to dig treasures hidden in the Sigiriya and sent to England.[3]

After retirement, he also investigated the archaeology and epigraphy of the Maldives, where he had been earlier in his life.[4] and studied the linguistics of the Maldivian language. Bell had developed a good friendship with the king of the Maldives, who put his own royal schooner Fath-ul-Majid at his disposition to carry out archaeological research in certain atolls south of Malé.[5]


  • Bell, Harry Charles Purvis (1882). The Máldive Islands: An Account of the Physical Features, Climate, History, Inhabitants, Productions, and Trade. F. Luker, acting government printer, Ceylon.
  • The Maldive Islands. Report on a Visit to Málé, Colombo, 1921.
  • Bell, Harry Charles Purvis (1890). Anuradhpura and the North-Central Province ...: Progress Report. Government Printer, South Africa.
  • Bell, Harry Charles Purvis (2002). The Máldive Islands: Monograph on the History, Archaeology and Epigraphy. Novelty Printers Publ. ISBN 978-99915-3-051-2.
  • Bell, Harry Charles Purvis (1998). Excerpta Máldiviana. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-1221-1.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2007 "Bell, Harry Charles Purvis, (21 Sept. 1851–6 Sept. 1937), Ceylon Civil Service (retired)." WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO
  2. ^ "Department of Archaeology - History". Archived from the original on 9 October 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2007.
  3. ^ Robin W. Winks, Alaine M. Low, The Oxford History of the British Empire (1999), p. 244.
  4. ^ [1] Archived 29 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine, [2] Archived 11 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Romero Frías 2003.