Herbert Eustis Winlock

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Herbert Eustis Winlock
Born (1884-02-01)February 1, 1884
Washington D.C.
Died January 26, 1950(1950-01-26) (aged 65)
Venice, Florida
Occupation Egyptologist
Employer Metropolitan Museum of Art

Herbert Eustis Winlock (February 1, 1884 – January 26, 1950) was an American Egyptologist employed with the Metropolitan Museum of Art during his entire Egyptological career. Central to the great era of American museum-sponsored Egyptian excavations, Winlock's work contributed greatly to Egyptology's development, in particular his reconstruction of the royal lineage of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom. Much of the Met's collection of Egyptian artifacts comes from his archaeological expeditions, particularly his excavations at Thebes, where he worked for many years on the excavations at the funerary temple of Hatshepshut.

The son of a high-ranking Smithsonian Institution official, Winlock graduated from Harvard before becoming the youngest member of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s expedition to the royal necropolis at El-Lisht 25 miles south of Cairo in 1906. He was later transferred to the Kharga Oasis 100 miles west of Luxor, where he helped restore a temple of the god Amun.[1]

In 1911 Winlock began excavating the mortuary complex of the 11th Dynasty pharaoh Mentuhotep II (2010–1998 B.C.) at Deir el-Bahri in the Valley of the Kings, where he discovered the bodies of 60 soldiers slain in battle and buried in linen shrouds decorated with the cartouche of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II. On March 17, 1920 Winlock discovered the tomb of Mentuhotep II's prime minister Meketre, which contains a model bakery-brewery.[2]

Winlock’s work at Deir el-Bahri concluded his career in the field; in 1932, upon returning to the U.S., he was named director of the Metropolitan Museum. As his eulogist remarked following his death in 1950, Winlock had the rare ability to “‘retroject himself’ into a past civilization and make some of it come alive again for his contemporaries.”

Winlock was instrumental in the design of the Metropolitan Museum's spectacular Dig House, close to the Valley of the Kings, where he spent the winters, accompanied by his wife, the artist Helen Chandler Winlock, and his young daughters Frances and Barbara. Most often known as 'the American House' it was the headquarters for Winlock and his distinguished team of archaeologists, several of whom were seconded to work on the tomb of Tutankhamun once it was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. Winlock was closely involved in that discovery and, as a close friend of Carter's, became caught up in the subterfuge and political controversy that built up once the tomb had been opened.

In the wake of the Depression, funds for excavating in Egypt began to dry up, and the annual digs at Thebes ceased. Winlock returned to New York and to the Metropolitan. He served as director of the Met from 1932 until his retirement in 1939 and remained director emeritus until his death. During that period, his interest in Tutankhamun and the burgeoning myths that had attached themselves to it, remained strong. He consistently discredited the claims that a 'curse' attached itself to all those who visited the tomb or who were involved in the work on it—and continued to do so even when tragedy was visited upon his own family. His book Tutankhamun's Funeral, published in 1941 after his retirement, looks back at the extraordinary events in the Valley of the Kings in 1908 which he witnessed; events which—in due course—provided Howard Carter with key clues in his search for that pharaoh's tomb. An extraordinary work—Winlock was as brilliant a writer as he was an archaeologist -- Tutankhamun's Funeral evokes the era of great discoveries in Egypt, and is infused with a haunting melancholy.

His father, William Crawford Winlock, was an assistant secretary at the Smithsonian Institution.

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Cultural offices
Preceded by
Edward Robinson
Metropolitam Museum of Art by Simon Fieldhouse.jpg
Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

1932–1939
Succeeded by
Francis Henry Taylor