first professional woman Egyptologist.

Born in Calcutta to English parents who held liberal views concerning female education and non-Christian religions, Margaret Murray earned her doctorate at University College, London, under Flinders Petrie, James H. Walker and Francis Llewellyn Griffith. She was hired 1899 as a junior lecturer and taught elementary Egyptian hieroglyphs, which resulted in a grammar (1905).

Murray's first field experience was with Flinders Petrie at Abydos (1902–1903), when they excavated the mysterious Osireion (thought to be a simulation of the tomb of Osiris or a cenotaph of Seti I). From 1903 to 1904, Murray worked at Saqqara as part of a three-woman team, copying relief scenes in the mastabas. This work resulted in the first and only volume of Saqqara Mastabas (1905).

Returning to teaching at University College, Murray organized a comprehensive program in archaeology and continued the language courses. She produced an elementary Coptic grammar In 1911. After Walker's death, she and Flinders Petrie constituted the Department of Egyptology. As he dug in Egypt every winter, starting in November, Murray carried the full burden of teaching but was not appointed an assistant professor until age sixty-one In 1924.

Only summer vacations allowed Murray time for excavations, which she carried out in Europe because of the heat and inundation in Egypt. She spent five seasons investigating megalithic sites on Malta and Minorca. Coincidentally she began studying European folklore and witch cults, publishing The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (Oxford, 1921) which won her acclaim among folklorists and the presidency of the Folk Lore Society from 1953 to 1955. Her last field expeditions were at Petra (1937) and at Tell el-῾Ajjul near Gaza with Flinders Petrie and E. J. H. MacKay In 1938.

Murray's bibliography includes more than eighty books and articles. Her best-selling popular book The Splendour that was Egypt appeared In 1949. Her last and hundredth year saw the publication of two books, The Genesis of Religion and her memoirs, My First Hundred Years. Murray's greatest contribution to Egyptology may well have been her dedication to teaching, which resulted in the first integrated program of studies in Egyptology in England, and in training subsequent generations of British archaeologists.

[See also Abydos; ῾Ajjul, Tell el-; Petra; Saqqara; and the biography of Petrie.]


  • Dawson, Warren R., and Eric P. Uphill. Who Was Who in Egyptology. 2d rev. ed. London, 1972.
  • Murray, Margaret. Elementary Egyptian Grammar. London, 1905.
  • Murray, Margaret. Saqqara Mastabas. Part 1. Publications of the Egyptian Research Account, 10. London, 1905.
  • Murray, Margaret. Elementary Coptic (Sahidic) Grammar. London, 1911.
  • Murray, Margaret. The Splendour That Was Egypt. London, 1949.
  • Murray, Margaret. The Genesis of Religion. London, 1963.
  • Murray, Margaret. My First Hundred Years. London, 1963.

Barbara Switalski Lesko