Gerald Avery Wainwright

Dates: 
1879 - 1964

British Egyptologist and archaeologist; he was born at Clifton, 4 March 1879, son of William Frederick W., brewer, and Emily Helen Jones; educated Clifton College, but he was unable to go on to University afterwards; his interest in Egyptology was awakened by reading Rawlinson’s Ancient Egypt at 15, but he was unable to follow it up and had to work in a timber office when he was 17; in 1900 he attended evening classes in Egyptian and Coptic at the University College, Bristol, Mackay (q.v.) being also a student; he first visited Egypt in 1904, and on meeting Petrie (q.v.), 1907, asked to be taken on as an assistant on his digs; he went to Sohag and remained excavating with Petrie until 1912, contributing to no fewer than six of Petrie’s archaeological vols., Meydum and Memphis III, 1910; The Labyrinth and Gerzeh, 1911; Tarkhan I and Memphis V, 1913; Heliopolis, Kafr Ammar and Shurafa, 1915; and pls. in Memphis I and II; during the summers he studied with Petrie and Margaret Murray (q.v.) at University College London, and received some instruction in language from Griffith (q.v.) in Oxford, in return for help with the Nubian finds; he next joined Wellcome (q.v.) in the Sudan, and having saved enough money was able to study and take his BLitt Oxon, 1913, the subject being The Foreign Relations of the New Kingdom which dealt with the Keftiu and which was published later in Liverpool Annals; Wainwright dug for the EES at Abydos, 1913-14, and at Es-Sawama, and in 1915 at El-Balabish for the American branch; in 1914 he also joined Woolley (q.v.) and Lawrence (q.v.) at Carchemish; to support himself he taught at Christ’s Hospital School and the Tewfikia School in Cairo, 1916-21; he was appointed Chief Inspector of Middle Egypt by the Antiquities Service, 1921-4; in 1926 he retired to Bournemouth with sufficient money saved plus the compensation given by the Egyptian Government to retiring officers, to enable him to devote the rest of his life to research and publication; to this end he regularly visited Oxford, and the list of his publications is thus very long, reaching hundreds of items; only two books came out under his own name, Balabish, 1920; The Sky Religion of Egypt, 1937; his interests were very wide and his articles and reviews embraced archaeology and anthropology in areas far beyond Egypt; in all he contributed to at least 15 journals and also reviewed for the Times Literary Supplement; his main studies were technical, e.g. iron, bronze, tin, obsidian; religious and anthropological, e.g. the origins of the gods Amun and Min; and ethnic, e.g. the Sea Peoples; he did much to encourage young people and students, founding a prize of £50 for an essay written on Egyptian Archaeology by a boy or girl at school; he left the bulk of his estate to the University of Oxford to endow two Research Fellowships in the study of Near Eastern Archaeology; he also donated a generous sum for books for the library of the EES; he died in Bournemouth, 28 May 1964