Yesterday evening the Friends of Saqqara Foundation received the sad news of the passing of Professor Geoffrey Martin on the morning of Monday 7 March 2022.
Professor Geoffrey Almeric Thorndike Martin (born 28 May 1934) will be remembered by us as an incredibly kind and generous man whose contributions to rediscovering the Memphite New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara were fundamental. Geoffrey obtained his BA in Ancient History from University College London in 1963. He then studied for an MA at the University of Cambridge (1966) and joined the Fellowship at Christ’s College as the Lady Wallis Budge Junior Research Fellow. During his Junior Research Fellowship in 1969, he received his PhD. In 1970, Geoffrey returned to University College London as an Egyptology lecturer, eventually becoming Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology.
Before his fieldwork in Saqqara started, Geoffrey participated in excavations at Buhen in the Sudan for the Egypt Exploration Society (EES) in 1963. At Saqqara, he first participated in excavations of the animal necropolis and was site Director for the EES mission from 1964 until 1968. In 1975, the Anglo-Dutch joint mission of the EES (London) and the National Museum of Antiquities (Leiden) at Saqqara started under the directorship of Geoffrey, assisted by Dr Hans D. Schneider. The objectives of the joint mission were the relocation, investigation and publication of the New Kingdom tombs in Saqqara which were partly explored by Karl Richard Lepsius back in 1843. The mission proved to be fruitful from the start as the long lost Memphite tomb of Horemheb was rediscovered in the very first year of the excavations. Many other important tombs followed, such as the tomb of Maya, Treasurer of Tutankhamun, and his wife Meryt in 1986 and the Tomb of Tia, Ramesses II’s treasurer who married the elder sister of the Pharaoh remarkably also named Tia. These discoveries by Geoffrey and his team confirmed that the ancient capital of Memphis retained its importance as the main centre of royal administration in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties and revealed Saqqara’s importance as a New Kingdom archaeological site.
Besides Field Director, Geoffrey worked as Epigraphist for the mission and many are familiar with his beautiful drawings of numerous New Kingdom reliefs. Geoffrey turned his attention also to the many reliefs from the site in museum collections which resulted in his publication Corpus of reliefs of the New Kingdom from the Memphite necropolis and Lower Egypt I (1987, London; New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul). The discovered tombs were published by Geoffrey and his team in many preliminary publications and final publications. In 1991, Geoffrey published The hidden tombs of Memphis (London: Thames and Hudson) in which he presented the work of the joint mission in an exciting and vivid account of the first thirteen seasons and the discoveries made during those seasons.
After the Anglo-Dutch mission, Geoffrey became Joint Field Director of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project and later Field Director of the Cambridge Expedition to the Valley of the Kings, re-excavating the royal Theban tomb of Horemheb, together with Dr Jacobus van Dijk.
Geoffrey visited Leiden several times to present his research to the Friends of Saqqara. Two of his latest monographs on Saqqara were published with the help of donations from the Friends of Saqqara Foundation and individual EES members. On Saturday 2 June 2012, during the 10th annual Saqqara Day, the first copy of his The Tomb of Maya and Meryt I: the Reliefs, Inscriptions, and Commentary (EES Excavation Memoir 99) was presented to Geoffrey in front of the Taffeh Temple in the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden. A revised version of his 1989 publication on the Saqqara tomb of Horemheb, then commander-in-chief of Tutankhamun prior to his becoming King Horemheb, was published in 2016.
Geoffrey will be greatly missed by us as friend and colleague and we are very grateful to him for the existence of our Foundation is inextricably linked to his contributions to rediscovering the Memphite New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara.