Henry Hall (Egyptologist)

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Henry R. H. Hall
Born(1873-09-30)30 September 1873
Died13 October 1930(1930-10-13) (aged 57)
London, UK
Alma materSt John's College, Oxford
Known forhis excavations in Egypt and Mesopotamia, being Keeper of the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum
Scientific career
FieldsEgyptology, Assyriology, archaeology
InstitutionsBritish Academy, Egypt Exploration Society, Society of Antiquaries of London

Henry Reginald Holland Hall MBE, FBA, FSA (30 September 1873 – 13 October 1930) was an English Egyptologist and historian. In life, he was normally referred to as Harry Reginald Hall.[1]

Early life[edit]

Henry R.H. Hall was the son of Sir Sydney Hall, MVO, MA, a portrait painter and illustrator for The Graphic newspaper, and his wife Hannah Holland. He went to Merchant Taylors' School, London and showed an interest in history and ancient Egypt from an early age. By the age of 11 he wrote a history of Persia, and by 16 he had gained some knowledge of the ancient Egyptian language.[1]

Hall studied classics at St John's College, Oxford, as well as Egyptian history and language under the tutelage of Egyptologist Francis Llewellyn Griffith, gaining a BA in 1895, his MA in 1897 and later his D.Litt in 1920.[1]


In 1896 he started work at the British Museum as an assistant to E. A. Wallis Budge, becoming Assistant Keeper, Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in 1919. On Budge's retirement in 1924, Hall became Keeper of the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, a post he held until his death in 1930.[1]

He worked with Édouard Naville and Edward R. Ayrton in the excavations at Deir el-Bahri, Egypt, from 1903 to 1907, and also dug at Abydos with the Egypt Exploration Society expeditions of 1910 and 1925.[1]

During the First World War he was attached to the military section of the press bureau, and in 1916 moved into Intelligence and was later attached to the Political Service in Mesopotamia with the rank of captain. He was twice mentioned in dispatches, and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.[1]

Combining in an unusual manner a knowledge of Egyptology and Assyriology in almost equal degrees, he was indefatigable in the service of the joint departments in the British Museum. While in his later years he had not the opportunity to take part in excavating expeditions sent out by the Museum, he was of great assistance in organising the expeditions of Campbell Thompson at Nineveh and Guy Brunton in Upper Egypt. He was, despite an initial and boyish brusqueness of manner, a charming colleague and tactful in the division of the spoils of excavation when these had been acquired jointly with other bodies. On the art of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia he was perhaps the pre-eminent authority, and it was one of his first tasks as Keeper to rearrange many of the galleries so as to stress the artistic and historical side of archaeology and less the predominantly religious emphasis which previously existed. Of the collections in the British Museum Hall published a work on the Coptic and Greek texts of the Christian period, one volume of a catalogue of scarabs, and six volumes on the hieroglyphic texts.

Hall's interests were not confined to Egyptology; after the war he directed the British Museum excavations at Ur and Tell Ubaid, in Mesopotamia. He travelled in Greece and western Asia, and published a variety of works on the history of these regions; he even cultivated an interest in Chinese antiquities.[1]


He was a forceful speaker with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject, and had great success in presenting archaeological discoveries to the general public. He was a frequent contributor of short articles and communications, submitting more than 100 of these to various academic journals, including the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology and the British Museum Quarterly. He also contributed chapters to Cambridge Ancient History as well as articles for Encyclopædia Britannica and Dictionary of National Biography.

With later art, especially that of the last four centuries, he was well acquainted, collecting Dutch paintings of ships, and presenting to the National Portrait Gallery in the present year a remarkable collection of political and other portrait sketches made by his father. Among other interests outside his main field, he was devoted to the history of the Army and Navy and his acquaintance with the various types of German military buttons was of unexpected national service in the War.

In 1920 Hall was made honorary D.Litt. at Oxford and an honorary Fellow of his college in 1929. He was a Fellow of the British Academy, chairman of the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1922, and a member of Council of both the Hellenic Society and the Royal Asiatic Society.

On returning from an Egyptological seminar in Brussels, Hall caught a cold from which he did not recover, dying of pneumonia in London on 13 October 1930, at the age of 57. His service was at St Mary the Virgin, Primrose Hill, and afterwards at Golders Green Crematorium on 15 October.[1]

Further reading[edit]

  • Morris L. Bierbrier, ed., "Who was Who in Egyptology", ISBN 0-85698-125-7, 1995, London, p. 186-7.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Henry R.H. Hall, "The Oldest Civilization of Greece", 1901.[2]
  • Henry R.H. Hall, "Coptic and Greek Texts of the Christian Period in the British Museum", 1905, London.
  • Henry R.H. Hall and L.W. King, "Egypt and Western Asia in the light of Recent Discoveries", 1907.
  • Édouard Naville, Henry R.H. Hall, et al., "The Eleventh Dynasty Temple at Deir el Bahari", 3 vols., 1907–13.[3]
  • Henry R.H. Hall, "Hieroglyphic Texts in the British Museum", vols ii–vii, 1912–25, London.
  • Henry R.H. Hall, "Ancient History of the Near East from the earliest Times to the Battle of Salamis", 1913.
  • Henry R.H. Hall, with Édouard Naville and T.E. Peet, "Cemeteries of Abydos", vol i, 1914.
  • Henry R.H. Hall, "Aegean Archaeology", 1915.
  • Henry R.H. Hall, C.L. Woolley, et al., "Al 'Ubaid", 1927.
  • Henry R.H. Hall, "A General Introductory Guide to the Egyptian Collections in the British Museum", 1930, London.
  • Henry R.H. Hall, "Ur excavations", 1934


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Dr. H. R. Hall Archaeologist And Historian (transcription)". The Times. No. 45643. London. 14 October 1930. p. 16; col B. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
  2. ^ "Review of The Oldest Civilization of Greece by H. R. Hall". The Athenaeum (3847): 99–100. 20 July 1901.
  3. ^ "Review of The Eleventh Dynasty Temple at Deir el Bahari, Part III by Édouard Naville and H. R. Hall". The Athenaeum (4473): 68. 19 July 1913.

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