The “legendary” Winlock: excellent investigator and … prolific discoverer

Herbert Eustis Winlock, American Egyptologist (1-2-1884, Washington DC – 26-1-1950, Venice, Florida)
and one of the carriers of offerings from the tomb of Meketre (TT280) he discovered in February 1920

We can always be thankful by, I’d say, some few researchers in the Egyptology’s world for their open and honestly investigations in the mystery of the magic Egypt.

via by Marie Grillot translated from French.

An excellent report about a Legendary Man. by Marie Grillot 🙏💖🙏

The great American Egyptologist Herbert Eustis Winlock was born on February 1, 1884, in Washington DC. He followed brilliant studies in prestigious universities, like Yale or Harvard, from which he graduated. At the age of 22, he undertook his first excavations in Egypt. It is the start of a career, of exceptional quality and richness, punctuated by discoveries that will make ‘date’ in Egyptology.

From 1906 and 1931, he led numerous campaigns there on behalf of the Metropolitan Museum.

Head of female statue – painted wood with gilding – Cairo Egyptian Museum – I 39380
Middle Kingdom – XIIth dynasty – Provenance: Licht
Excavations of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York under the direction of HE Winlock – 1907

In 1907, in Lisht, between Daschour and Meidoum, he made excavations on the site of the pyramid of Amenemhat. He found there, in particular, a magnificent female head in painted wood, with a heavy black wig decorated with touches of gold (it will often be reproduced to symbolize Egyptian beauty).

Temple of Hibis in the Kharga oasis

He then worked on the temple of Hibis in Kharga, then on the palace of Amenophis III in Malgatta, on the west bank of Luxor.

Around 1910, he obtained from Gaston Maspero the concession for the Theban mountain, Gurnet Murai, Assassif (with German Egyptologists) and a sector of Deir el-Bahari (with the French) where he notably cleared part of the temple of Mentouhotep.

Then began twenty years of discoveries and restorations carried out by the “legendary Winlock”.

The house of the Metropolitan Museum excavations (now known as the “Polish House”)
was built between 1912 and 1914 on the plans of Herbert Eustis Winlock

On October 26, 1912, in Boston’s “Trinity Church”, he married Hélène Chandler from an old family in that city. They will have three children: Frances, William and Barbara. They will share their life between New York, North Haven, an island off the coast of Maine and Egypt.

It is on his own plans that were built in Assassif, between 1912-1914, the magnificent excavation house of the Metropolitan, known today as the “Polish House”.

During the First World War, he returned to the United States; he did not return to Thebes until 1920.

Tomb Meketre – TT 280 – Deir el-Bahari
discovered in February 1920 by the mission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York led by Herbert Eustis Winlock
(photo Harry Burton)

It was at the end of February of that year that, under his direction, the Egyptologists Ambrose Lansing and Harry Burton discovered the tomb of Meketré (TT280). For more than three weeks, 200 fellahs recruited from the village cleaned and cleared the site when, on March 17, one of the workers noticed that small pieces of stone were sliding into a crack in the rock. “We had already looked in so many empty holes, told Mr Winlock, that the news hardly moved me. No matter! I lay on my stomach, slipped the torch into the hole, pressed the button and stuck my eye against the opening. Instantly the electric beam lit up a whole world of four thousand years old! Hundreds of Lilliputians came and went on their business. Several brandishing sticks pushed oxen with spotted coats before them. Others, bracing themselves on their oars, manoeuvring a flotilla of boats. A large ship, the bow in the air was about to sink. ” Objects – as incredible as they are exceptional! – will then be shared between the Met and the Cairo museum.
In 1921, in the tomb of the tomb and Ipy Meseh at Deir el Bahri,
Herbert Eustis Winlock discovered the “Letters Heqanakht”
here, “Letter I” – Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – Accession Number: 22.3.516 (Museum photo)

In 1921, in the tomb of Meseh at Deir el Bahari, he found the “Letters of Heqanakht”, a scribe of the XIIth dynasty: they constitute an exceptional testimony on the life of this period … Agatha Christie will be inspired by elsewhere, in 1944, to write “Death is not an end – Death comes as the end”, signing there his only novel not to take place in the twentieth century.

In 1922 Winlock was among the first to enter the tomb of Tutankhamun. In February, for the opening of the third sealed door, he was in the “happy few”, as Howard Carter himself reports in “The fabulous discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun”: “Friday the 17th, at two o’clock, those who were to have the privilege of attending the ceremony met at the entrance to the tomb. Lord Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn Herbert, Her Excellency Abd el-Halim Pasha Souleman, Minister of Public Works, Mr Lacau, were present Director-General of the Antiquities Service, Sir William Garstin, Sir Charles Cust, Mr Lythgoe, the Curator of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the Metropolitan Museum, Professor Breasted, Dr Alan Gardiner, Mr Winlock, – about twenty people in all “… The relations between Winlock and Carter will prove to be warm and cordial and the American will not fail to support the British, especially in the face of the problems he will encounter in 1924.

In 1941, Herbert Eustis Winlock devotes a book to
“Materials used at the embalming of King Tut-Ankh-Amun”.
Here, some of the pots found in KV 54 (Tutankhamun’s Embalming Cache)
discovered in 1907 by Edward Russell Ayrton on behalf of Theodore M. Davis
Presentations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

In 1941, he devoted a book to “Materials used at the embalming of King Tut-Ankh-Amun”. His work will be based on what he was able to “recover” from the excavations of Davis carried out in 1907 in KV54 (Tut-Ankh-Amun cache).

The tomb of Merytamun (DB 3258) when discovered by Herbert Eustis Winlock

Herbert Winlock will also update the tomb of Neferhotep (DB316 or TT316), that of Merytamon (DB358), daughter of Queen Ahmès Nefertari, whose cedar sarcophagus is 3.13 m high, and that of Senenmut ( TT71).

After being the director of the Metropolitan Museum’s Egyptian expedition from 1928 to 1932, he was appointed curator of the Egyptian department of the museum, then director, a post he held from 1932 to 1939. He was then director emeritus until his death, January 26, 1950, in Venice, Florida, at the age of 66.

In 1937, the press announced prematurely, the death of Herbert Eustis Winlock,
saying the victim of the curse of Tutankhamun

For the anecdote, it should be noted that his death had been announced in the press … as early as 1937, the so-called victim of the curse of Tutankhamun! Thus “Le Figaro” of August 6, 1937, under the title “Victim of All-Ankh-Amon” thus introduced a snippet “Death will occur with fast wings for those who touch the tomb of the pharaoh …” thus concluding “Mr Herbert Winlock died of a sudden illness that doctors were unable to diagnose. ” In fact, it was a stroke, which left him with after-effects but did not cost him his life…

The work carried out by Winlock has always been of high quality, praised and appreciated by the Egyptologists who rubbed shoulders with him, such as William Matthew Flinders Petrie or even Arthur Weigall. His excavation books are very documented. They constitute an extraordinarily rich testimony of the way in which the excavations were carried out at that time.

To understand, to approach the truth, he knew how to use all possible means of investigation: exchange of photos casts between different museums, chemical analyzes, medical studies, radiographic … “This taste for integral investigation led Mr Winlock has multiple discoveries, but, without taking into account the details and additions made to the interpretation of the monuments of Deir el-Bahari, that of art or funeral rites, the author’s investigations throw a bright light on the daily existence of a people whose history he tried to reconstruct. “

Marie Grillot


The Path to Tutankhamun, Howard Carter,   TGH James TPP 1992
Who Was Who inEgyptology, Bierbier, M., London, Egypt Exploration Society
The complete Valley of the Kings, Nicholas Reeves, Richard h. Wilkinson, The American University in Cairo Press, 2002

History of the Valley of the Kings, John Romer, Vernal – Philippe Lebaud 1991

The fabulous discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, Howard Carter

” The Journal of Egyptian Archeology “, volume 36, 1950

” Excavations Met Throughout History “, 1870

Michel Laurence, Fabulous discovery in Egypt

2 thoughts on “The “legendary” Winlock: excellent investigator and … prolific discoverer

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.