Dr Samuel Birch (1813–1885), Keeper of Oriental Antiquities (1861–1885)

Image credit: The Trustees of the British Museum

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Although one of the first British Egyptologists, Samuel Birch never visited Egypt. He joined the Museum’s Department of Antiquities in 1836 and, although trained in Chinese, from the outset his interest lay primarily in the Egyptian language and its decipherment. In 1861 following an administrative rearrangement he became Keeper of the department which included Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities and in 1866, following a further division, he was Keeper of Oriental Antiquities (later renamed Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities). A distinguished scholar, he was in 1870 the founder and president of the Society of Biblical Archaeology. He received considerable foreign recognition and is seen here wearing the Prussian Order of the Crown, 2nd Class, awarded by the German Emperor in 1874.

British Museum



Dr Samuel Birch (1813–1885), Keeper of Oriental Antiquities (1861–1885)


after 1874


oil on canvas


H 56 x W 49 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

bequeathed by D. E. Salway, c.1957

Work type



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