The John Garstang Collection

Scope and Content

The records of John Garstang including:

  • general papers and records of his early excavations, 1899-1907, (JG/1);
  • papers regarding the excavation of Beni Hasan, 1902-1904 (JG/2);
  • papers regarding Edfu Excavation Fund expedition, 1904-1905, (JG/3);
  • papers regarding the excavation of Esna, 1904-1906, and the survey of Nubia sites, 1906, (JG/4);
  • papers regarding the excavation of Abydos, 1906-1909, (JG/5);
  • records relating to Garstang's Near Eastern expeditions, 1907-1911 (JG/6);
  • papers regarding the excavation of Meroë, 1909-1914 (JG/7);
  • papers regarding the excavations at Jericho, 1930-1939, (JG/8);
  • papers regarding his excavations at Negada, (JG/9).
 Many of these series also include later research at the Museum by researchers using the collection.

The collection also contains photographic collections created during John Garstang's excavations and other collections attributed to Garstang including:

  • photographic archive of the Abydos excavations, 1906-1909 (JG/A)[listed];
  • photographic archive of the Beni Hasan excavations, 1902-1904, (JG/B), [listed];
  • photographic archive of the Esna excavations, 1905-1906, (JG/E), [listed];
  • photographic archive of excavations at Bet Khallaf and Mahasna, 1900-1901, (JG/F) [catalogued];
  • misc. photographic materials: 'Garstangania', (JG/G), [listed];
  • photographic archives of the Hierakonpolis and Hissayeh excavations, 1904-1906, (JG/H), [listed];
  • photographic archive of the survey of Hittite sites in Anatolia, 1907, (JG/HIT) [catalogued];
  • photographic archive of excavations in Nubia, 1906, (JG/K), [catalogued];
  • photographic archive of the excavation of Meroë. 1909-1914, (JG/M) [catalogued];
  • photographic archive the excavation at Naqada, 1904-1905, (JG/N), [listed];
  • photographic archive of 'Tombs of the Third Dynasty at Reqaqnah and Bet Khallaf', 1900-1902, (JG/R), [catalogued];
  • photographic archive of the excavation at Sakje Geuzi (Sakçagözü), 1908-1911, (JG/SG), [catalogued];
  • Misc. near eastern negatives, (JG/X), [catalogued];
  • Misc. Egyptian negatives, (JG/Z), [listed].

Administrative / Biographical History

John Garstang was an archaeologist who was a pioneer of archaeological fieldwork techniques and was an early adopter of photography as a means to record archaeological excavations.

He was born on 5 May 1876, in Blackburn, Lancashire. He was educated at Blackburn Grammar School and obtained a scholarship to study mathematics at Jesus College, Oxford. He already had an interest in archaeology and spent his vacations at Oxford excavating sites in the UK, including Ribchester, Lancashire (1898); Ardotalia, Derbyshire (1899); Richborough, Kent (1900); and Navio Roman fort, Derbyshire (1903).

After graduating from Oxford in 1899, Garstang worked for Flinders Petrie at Abydos, Egypt. In the winter of 1900-1901, Garstang, funded by the Egyptian Research Account, excavated sites north of Abydos including Alawniyeh, Mashasna and Bet Khallaf (Bayt Khallāf). It was during this period Garstang met the Assyriology, Archibald Henry Sayce, who became his mentor and lifelong friend.

Garstang returned to Egypt the following year with private funding from a Excavation Committee he has set up himself. The Committee comprised wealthy industrialists and representative of museums who, in exchange for their donations, would receive a selection of the artefacts discovered during the season. This was a funding method Garstang used for the rest of his career. During the 1901-1902 season, Garstang excavated the 3rd and 4th Dynasty stairway tombs and necropolis at Reqaqnah (Ar Raqāqinah) and later burials sites at B Bet Dawd (Bayt Dāwūd) and Sararwah (Sarāwirah).In 1904 Garstang published his research at Reqaqnah and Bet Khallaf in Tombs of the Third Egyptian Dynasty.

In 1902, Garstang became the honorary reader in Egyptian Archaeology at the University of Liverpool. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Institute of Archaeology at Liverpool in 1904, acting as its honorary secretary until it was incorporated into the University in 1948. In 1907, Garstang was appointed the Professor of Methods and Practice of Archaeology at the University, a role he held until his retirement. Garstang carried out very little teaching at the University and was permitted to carry out archaeological digs abroad during term time on behalf of the Institute and the University. The majority of the artefacts from his digs were distributed to members of his excavation committees but other artefacts and his excavation records were presented to the Institute for its own Museum (now the Garstang Museum of Archaeology).

From 1902-1904, Garstang spent two seasons excavating the Middle Kingdom shaft tombs at Beni Hasan, leading to the publication of The burial customs of ancient Egypt in 1907. He also excavated the royal tomb at Naqada in 1904. In 1903 he was joined by (Ernest) Harold Jones (1877-1911), an young artist who had initially gone to Egypt because of his poor health. Jones worked for Garstang until 1907, supervising and recording the excavations, including taking photographs of the sites and objects discovered. In the 1904-1905 season, with funding from the Edfu excavation committee, Garstang excavated the ‘fort; at Hierakonpolis, and burials at Hissayeh and Esna. In the next season, Garstang completed his excavations at Esna and also carried out a short exploratory survey of sites in Nubia. In the spring of 1906, Garstang transferred his work to cemeteries at Abydos, where he worked until 1909.

Through his friendship with Sayce, Garstang also became interested in the archaeology of the Near East and the Hittite Empire. In the spring of 1907 he carried out an exploratory survey of Anatolia (now Turkey and Syria) looking for the remains of the Hittite Empire, with his new assistant, Horst Schliephack. Schliephack was a photographer who had previously worked in Egypt for James Henry Breasted and was the Institute of Archaeology’s Staff Assistant from 1907 to 1913. Garstang returned to Turkey in 1908 and 1911 to excavate the site of Sakje-Geuzi (Sakçagözü). In 1910, Garstang published his topographical study of the Hittite monuments, The Land of the Hittites (later rewritten as The Hittite Empire in 1929).

In 1909, also at the suggestion of Sayce, Garstang transferred his activities from Egypt to the site of the city of Meroë, Sudan. He excavated site every winter until the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

After the War, Garstang took charge of the School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, (1919-1926) and was the director of the department of antiquities for the mandatory government of Palestine, 1920-1926. From 1930-1936 he was involved in a major excavation of the city of Jericho. Garstang returned to Turkey in 1936 to survey the Cilician Plain and started to excavate the site of Yümük Tepe near Mersin in 1938. The excavation was halted during World War Two but Garstang complete work between 1946 and 1948. With the support of the Turkish Government he founded the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara in 1948.

In 1907 he married Marie Louise Bergés of Toulouse. They had a successful partnership and she often accompanied Garstang on his expeditions and was involved in the excavations. They had two children.

John Garstang died in September 1956 in Beirut. His later research on the Hittite Empire was published posthumously in 1959 by his nephew, Oliver Gurney as The Geography of the Hittite Empire.


The material has been arranged by expedition. Each expedition usually covered a single geographical region or site. However, as in the case of his excavation of Esna, occasionally the same site would be excated under more than one expedition or season. Therefore records relating to the same site may appear in more than one area of the collection. The letters used for the subfonds references largely reflect the letter system that has previously been used to reference the photographic collections.

Access Information

The collection is available to researchers by appointment. Access to some of the materials is restricted due for preservation issues. Access to the original glass plate negatives which have been digitzed are restricted.

Other Finding Aids

Only sections of the collection have been fully catalogued during externally funded projects in 2010 and 2014. A basic hierarchy has been established for the excavation records. but they have not been fully catalogued. The Museum holds paper handlists for the photographic collections which are yet to be catalogued.

Archivist's Note

The collection was brought together as part of the 'Focus on Egypt: the photographic archive of John Garstang' funded by the Pilgrim Trust. Sections of the collection have been catalogued under this project and the 2011 HLF Funded 'Lost Gallery Project'.

Separated Material

Many of the artefacts covered in the collection are now held by other Museums around the world. Their current location has been recorded where known.

Conditions Governing Use

A limited reproduction service is available for researchers. Please contact the curator for more information. The copyright of the photographs varies and has been noted in individual descriptions.

Custodial History

John Garstang gave his photographic and documentary records to the Institute of Archaeology, and are now held by the Garstang Museum. The papers and the photographic materials were held separately. It is believed that some of the collection was destroyed due in a bombing raid during World War II. Many of the photographic records were rearranged numerically using Garstang site references. The papers and the photographic collections have been rearranged several times but have never been fully listed.


No accruals expected.

Related Material

The Garstang Museum also holds artefacts from John Garstang's excavations which have been noted in this field.


John Garstang wrote many articles in the Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology and other journals about his research.

The following are his major publications:

  • Garstang, (1897), The History of Blackburn Grammar School, Blackburn, (Blackburn, North-East Lancashire Press).
  • Garstang, (1901), El arábah: a cemetery of the Middle Kingdom; survey of the Old Kingdom Temenos ; graffiti from the Temple of Sety, Egyptian Research Account, Vol. 6, (London, Quaritch).
  • Garstang (1903), Mahasna and Bet Khallaf, Egyptian Research Account, Vol. 7 (London: Quarditch).
  • Garstang (1904), Tombs of the Third Egyptian Dynasty at Reqâqnah and Bet Khallaf, (London, Contable)
  • Garstang & Newberry (1904), A short history of ancient Egypt, (Constable: London).
  • Garstang, (1907), The burial customs of ancient Egypt as illustrated by tombs of the Middle Kingdom : being a report of excavations made in the Necropolis of Beni Hassan during 1902-3-4, (London, Archibald and Constable);
  • Garstang, (1910), The land of the Hittites: an account of recent explorations and discoveries in Asia Minor, with descriptions of the Hittite monuments, (London, Constable);
  • Garstang (1929), The Hittite empire: being a survey of the history, geography and monuments of Hittite Asia Minor and Syria, (London, Constable).
  • Garstang (1931), Joshua, Judges (London).
  • Garstang (1934), The heritage of Solomon: an historical introduction to the sociology of ancient Palestine, (London, Williams and Norgate).
  • Garstang (1940), The story of Jericho, (London, Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Garstang, (1953), Prehistoric Mersin: Yumuk Tepe in Southern Turkey, (Oxford, Oxford University Press);
  • Garstang (1959), Geography of the Hittite Empire, (London)