The strange mystery of the Egyptologist’s missing tomb

Griffith Institute members Dr Francisco Bosch-Puche, Prof Richard Parkinson, Cat Warsi, Elizabeth Fleming and Dr Vincent Razanajao in Holywell Cemetery.  Picture: OX66019 Ed Nix

Griffith Institute members Dr Francisco Bosch-Puche, Prof Richard Parkinson, Cat Warsi, Elizabeth Fleming and Dr Vincent Razanajao in Holywell Cemetery. Picture: OX66019 Ed Nix Buy this photo

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering North Oxford, Jericho and Summertown. Call me on 01865 425498

EGYPTOLOGISTS are used to hunting down burial sites among the pyramids and the sphinxes.

But one group of Oxford University researchers is trying to solve a mystery closer to home.

The Griffith Institute is looking for the Oxford grave of its founder Prof Francis Llewellyn Griffith.

Prof Griffith is thought to have been buried at Holywell Cemetery in the city centre in 1934 – but his gravestone is nowhere to be found.

thisisoxfordshire:

Prof Francis Llewellyn Griffith

Archive assistant Elizabeth Fleming said: “We have taken a look around and checked records but could not find his grave.

“I have worked in the institute for 30 years and I am not aware of anybody during that time who knew where he is buried, or anyone who has tried to find him. He should be buried with his second wife, Nora.

“Griffith is someone you would think would have a monument, but he does not have anything at all.”

The search marks the 75th anniversary of the institute.

Ms Fleming added: “We really want to find him and give him a proper tribute.”

Friends of Holywell Cemetery member Janet Keene said: “It was a pretty standard place to be buried from the 1850s, because it began to take overspill from Oxford’s other cemeteries when they became full.

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“This is an unusual case because he wasn’t a poor man.

“One possibility is that he could have been buried in the neighbouring St Cross graveyard.”

Other city souls laid to rest in Holywell include Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame, who died in 1932, and brain surgeon Sir Hugh Cairns, who passed away in 1952.

Francis Griffith was a prolific Egyptologist who regularly visited Egypt and taught himself to read hieroglyphics.

He was an undergraduate at The Queen’s College in High Street and later returned to Oxford University to be its first proper Egypt scholar, living in Norham Gardens.

The institute was founded with funds he and his wife left to the university.

It is based in the Sackler Library buildings, in St John Street, off Beaumont Street.

An internationally-respected centre of Egyptology, its collection includes documentation from the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

RENOWNED EXPERT

  • Francis “Frank” Griffith, below, who was born in 1862, was an expert at translating ancient languages in the field of egyptology.
  • The Times described him as a “genius” after his death in 1934.
  • In 1913, after getting back from a three-year Oxford University excavation in Nubia, he published a series of texts in the Nubian language.
  • He was also involved in a dig at Tell el-Amarna in 1922 and 1923, his second wife, Nora, accompanying him on his travels, and illustrating many of his finds.
  • He instigated a project to catalogue inscriptions from every excavation site in Egypt, known as the Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs, and Paintings, which is still edited by the Griffith Institute to this day. 
  • Call the institute on 01865 278097 if you can shed light on the search

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