They say the head was lost for almost forty years, or maybe less, until it was found behind a pile of books in the storeroom of the Royal College of Surgeons. But there was no tag on the jar when Simon Gibson was invited to identify it. No one knows how it got there: some mention a hatbox, some a pickle jar or a pine chest, the same Flinders Petrie would have used to deliver his archaeological finds to England. The hatbox arrived with Petrie’s widow when she was deported from Palestine in 1947 by the Jewish authorities.
The nose looks different than it did in the photographs. The jar must have fallen down during the Blitz, breaking the nose. Maybe it was then when the tag fell off. But the head was not even there during the war. In the jar, it is still covered with black hair and a beard. Another Discrepancy.
The archeologist Sir William Matthews Flinders Petrie devoted his lifetime to the act of classifying cultural, material remains, inventing categories and methods while excavating in Egypt and Palestine. The inventor of stratigraphy and pottery typology, Petrie is considered the father of scientific archaeology. Among his categorised objects were thousands of skulls he collected and measured, believing that facial features and skull size can reflect one’s morality and intelligence according to racial divisions. Petrie was working in collaboration with Sir Francis Galton and Karl Pearson, both pioneers of the study of eugenics in England, sending them human remains from the East for anthropometric research.