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The Petrie Museum is a university museum. It was set up as a teaching resource for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College London (UCL). Both the department and the museum were created in 1892 through the bequest of the writer Amelia Edwards (1831-1892).
She donated her collection of several hundred Egyptian antiquities, many of historical importance. However, the collection grew to international stature in scope and scale thanks mainly to the extraordinary excavating career of the first Edwards Professor, William Flinders Petrie (1853-1942).
Petrie excavated literally dozens of major sites in the course of his career, including the Roman Period cemeteries at Hawara, famous for the beautiful mummy portraits in classical Roman style; Amarna, the city of king Akhenaten, sometimes called the first king to believe in one God; and the first true pyramid, at Meydum, where he uncovered some of the earliest evidence for mummification.
In 1913, Petrie sold his large collection of Egyptian antiquities to UCL. The collection were arranged in galleries within the university but most of the visitors were students and academics; it was not then open to the general public.
After Petrie retirement in 1933, his successors continued to add to the collections, excavating in other parts of Egypt and the Sudan.
Today the museum houses an estimated 80,000 objects, making it one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology in the world. It illustrates life in the Nile Valley from prehistory through the time of the pharaohs, the Ptolemaic, Roman and Coptic periods to the Islamic period.