The Times/1930/Obituary/Harry Reginald Hall

Obituary: Harry Reginald Holland Hall, M.B.E., Archaeologist And Historian  (1930) 

Source: Obituaries. The Times, Tuesday, Oct 14, 1930; Issue 45643; pg. 16 — Dr. H. R. Hall Archaeologist And Historian



Dr. H. R. Hall, Keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum, died at his home in London yesterday at the age of 57.

Born on September 30, 1873, the son of the late Mr. Sydney Hall, M.V.O, the painter, Harry Reginald Holland Hall followed his father to Merchant Taylors' School in 1886. He left in 1891, having obtained an open scholarship for modern history at St. John's College, Oxford, and took his degree in 1895 with a second class in Lit. Hum. In the following year he joined the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum, and was promoted to Assistant Keeper in 1919 and Keeper in 1924.

Hall's first excavation were at Dair-al-Bahari, 1903-7, and at Abydos, 1910, with Professor Naville, for the Egypt Exploration Fund; he also took part in the Egypt Exploration Society's excavations at Abudos in 1925. With Professor Naville he published a notable work on the Eleventh Dynasty Temple at Dair-al-Bahari, and with Naville and T.E. Peet one on the cemeteries of Abydos. In 1918 he directed the British Museum excavations at Ur of the Chaldees. Tell al-'Ubaid, and Abu Shahrain. The first volume of "Ur Excavations," by Hall and C. L. Woolley, assisted by Sir Arthur Keith and C. J. Gadd, appeared in 1927. This magnificent book, amply illustrated, describes the results obtained by the joint expedition of the British Museum and the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania in a mound named Al-'Ubaid. There Hall discovered large copper lions and bulls, dating to the beginning of the third millennium, B.C., and a great copper relief of Im-dugud, the mythical bird of the god Ningirsu. Mr. Woolley has described in recent articles in The Times the further important discoveries at Ur. Another work by Hall on his explorations at Ur in 1919 has just issued.

Dr. Hall was essentially a historian rather than a field archaeologist or a philologist, and his "Ancient History of the Near East," which went into seven editions, combined a general authority among expert students of Eastern archaeology with a wide popularity as a University text-book. The scheme of chronology he adopted for Egyptian history and the more easterly civilizations with which it was linked, was a compromise between that of Professor Breasted and the advanced school of German scholars and that held by the older English Egyptologists represented by Sir Flinders Petrie and Sir E. Wallis Budge. Apart from his work as an all-round Egyptologist he was a foremost authority on the history of Babylonia, Assyria, and Mesopotamia, and his knowledge of the Aegean civilizations, particularly the cultures known as Minoan, was second only to that of Sir Arthur Evans. His earliest interest, as it happens, was in Greece, on which he published his first book in 1901, and his last, the Rhind lectures delivered in Edinburgh on the "The Civilization of Greece in the Bronze Age," originally published in 1923 and reissued with new material two years ago. He was known to remark that the great thing about Greek civilization was that it did not leave room for "Pyramid-lunatics" — there was something about it which discourage that kind of thing.

Combining in an unusual manner a knowledge of Egyptology and Assyriology in almost equal degrees, he was indefatigable in the service of the joint departments in the British Museum. While in the most recent years he had not the opportunity to take part personally in the excavating expeditions sent out by the Museum, he was of great assistance in organizing the expeditions of Dr. Campbell Thompson at Nineveh and Mr. Guy Brunton in Upper Egypt. He was, despite an initial and boyish brusqueness of manner, a charming colleague and tactful in the division of the spoils of excavation when these had been acquired jointly with other bodies. On the art of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia he was perhaps the pre-eminent authority, and it was one of his first tasks as Keeper to rearrange many of the galleries so as to stress the artistic and historical side of archaeology and less the predominantly religious emphasis which previously existed. Of the collections in the British Museum Hall published a work on the Coptic and Greek texts of the Christian period, one volume of a catalogue of scarabs, and six volumes on the hieroglyphic texts. In the Museum he was one of the most stimulating and energetic figures, and he was frequently the representative of the Trustees or of the Government at international congresses. His fatal illness followed a series of rapid travel over the Continent in this service, for he had been representing the British Government at the Semaine Egyptologique in Brussels, and the Museum at a series of German congresses, for which he traversed half that country in seven days.

With later art, especially that of the last four centuries, he was well acquainted, collecting Dutch paintings of ships, and presenting to the National Portrait Gallery in the present year a remarkable collection of political and other portrait sketches made by his father. Among other interests outside his main field, he was devoted to the history of the Army and Navy and his acquaintance with the various types of German military buttons was of unexpected national service in the War. He was at first a member of the Military Section of the Press Bureau, was transferred to Intelligence in 1916, and was later attached to the Political Service in Mesopotamia with the rank of captain. For his services he was twice mentioned and made M.B.E.

In 1920 Hall was made hon. D.Lit. at Oxford and an hon. Fellow of his college in 1929. He was a Fellow of the British Academy, chairman of the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1922, and a member of Council of both the Hellenic Society and the Royal Asiatic Society. Dr. Hall was a valued correspondent of The Times.

There will be a service for personal friends at St. Mary the Virgin, Primrose-hill, to-morrow, at 11 o'clock, and afterwards at Golders Green Crematorium at 12.30.

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