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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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Dartmouth's interest in material culture from the African continent is directly linked to the history of one of its students, John Ledyard (1751-1789), who attended the college for one year in 1772 and became the first American in Egypt. Ledyard was engaged by the African Association of London to explore the Nile and the Niger Rivers. In 1788 he mourned the loss of “great Antiquity” in Alexandria, of which “the pillar of Pompey & an obelisk called Cleopatra's are now almost the only remains.” Museum records confirm that before 1810, a Mr. S. Dinsmore donated two syenite fragments of Pompey's pillar from Alexandria to the museum, one of which is still extant. Although the actual date of the acquisition of these two fragments remains unknown, it is possible that Ledyard's 1788 reference to this very same pillar was the impetus behind the collection and subsequent acquisition of these fragments by the museum. So began the acquisition also of other ancient Egyptian objects in the early parts of the nineteenth century.

The Dartmouth College Museum’s fascination with ancient Egyptian souvenirs and "curiosities" collected in the interest of exploration and adventure during the first half of the nineteenth century continued when, in 1838, Frederick Hall, Class of 1803, donated an Egyptian mummy mask from the Old Kingdom, 2465-2150 BCE; two fresco fragments from the Tomb of Kings in the Lower Chamber, Thebes, 18th Dynasty; a mummy cloth with embalming; and other objects no longer extant in the museum. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, this collection was further enhanced by a bequest from Emily Howe Hitchcock (1852-1912) of Hanover, New Hampshire, of objects collected in Egypt between 1866 and 1867, including a sepulchral stela from Thebes, dated c. 712-664 BCE. In the early 1930s the museum received a gift from the Estate of Mary C. Rockefeller of an Egyptian black granite head of a god, collected in Egypt by her husband, Nelson A. Rockefeller, Class of 1930. In 1939 the Dartmouth College Museum acquired more than 350 objects through gift and purchase from the Museum and Art Gallery of Reading, England, including ancient Egyptian pottery dating from pre-dynastic times to the Roman period. The collection of ancient Egyptian objects now numbers around four hundred.

Last Updated: 5/24/07