Barbara Adams (Egyptologist)

Barbara Georgina Adams, FRSA (19 February 1945 26 June 2002) was a distinguished British Egyptologist and specialist in predynastic history. She worked for many years at Hierakonpolis, where she was the co-director of the expedition. Before this she worked at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London and worked on excavations across Britain.

Barbara G. Adams
Adams c. 1980
Born19 February 1945
London, England
Died26 June 2002(2002-06-26) (aged 57)

Early career and the Petrie museum

Barbara Bishop was born in Hammersmith Hospital in London to Charles and Ellaline Bishop. Her parents had unskilled jobs but she gained a scholarship to Godolphin and Latymer School but her finances did not run to study after sixteen.

She worked and studied in her own time and in 1962, she became an assistant at the Natural History Museum.[1] She specialised in entomology at the museum and she became an assistant of R.B. Benson. She transferred to Dr K.P. Oakley's anthropology department in 1964 where she became acquainted with tool-artefacts and gained a knowledge of human skeletal anatomy.[2] in 1964 she won the Miss Hammersmith beauty contest and a book of her poetry Bones in my Soul was published.[1]

Adams became a museum assistant at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, at University College London in 1965.[1] Her employment with Professor Harry Smith, Edward Chair in Egyptian Archaeology of the University College, helped her career.[3]

Her first practical experience in 1965 was an excavation in Yorkshire by the University of Leeds. Later the same year she assisted in cemetery digs in Winchester and elsewhere within England. Contacts with artifacts from the Romano-British site at Dragonby in Lincolnshire) in excavations of 1966 were followed by a seminal encounter in the same year with Hierakonpolis artefacts. In 1967 she married a civil servant named Rob Adams, moved to Enfield and also gained a distinction for her London University diploma in archaeology.[1]

She travelled to Egypt during 1969 and studied field techniques for archaeology at the university of Cambridge. Her 1974 text on the subject of ancient Hierakonpolis showed the catalogued findings of Quibell and Green and was complemented by a lauded explication of the F.W. Green field notes. She turned her literary attention intermittently in the proceeding years to archived documents held in museums of the United Kingdom.[2] In Liverpool museum she was able to find unpublished material gathered by John Garstang. Over many years she documented his work in three publications The Fort Cemetery At Hierakonpolis in 1984 and Ancient Nekhen in 1990 and 1995.[4]

Hierakonpolis and onward

Her work with Garstang's excavations paid off when she was chosen as the pottery and objects expert for Michael A. Hoffman's re-established excavations of Hierakonpolis in 1979-80. She assisted at a cemetery of a predynastic elite group and she worked on the site until 1986. She had worked as an assistant to Walter Fairservis in 1981 at Nekhan and again in 1984.[4] After Hoffmann's death in 1990, Adams and Renée Friedman became co-directors of the Hierakonpolis excavation which continued until 1996. She has been credited with the discovery of previously unknown funeral-masks and a life-size statue. She was editor of the Shire Egyptology Series (numbering 25 books in total). Her final work was based upon vase fragments from a cemetery at Abydos.[2]

Adams married her highschool sweetheart Britain Hamm in 1972 in her hometown of London.[1] Adams died from cancer in 2002.[1]


  • Barbara Adams, Excavations in the Locality 6 cemetery at Hierakonpolis: 1979 - 1985, Oxford: Archaeopress, 2000, ISBN 1-84171-099-7
  • Barbara Adams, Ancient Nekhen - Garstang in the city of Hierakonpolis, New Malden: Shire Publications, 1990, ISBN 1-872561-03-9
  • Barbara Adams, Predynastic Egypt, Aylesbury Shire Publications, 1988
  • Barbara Adams, The Fort cemetery at Hierakonpolis: excavated by John Gerstang, London: KPI, 1987, ISBN 0-7103-0275-4
  • Barbara Adams, Sculptured Pottery from Koptos in the Petrie Collection, Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1986, ISBN 0-85668-389-2
  • Barbara Adams, Egyptian Mummies, Aylesbury Shire Publications, ISBN 0-85263-944-9


  1. H. S. Smith, 'Adams, Barbara Georgina (1945–2002)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2006; online edn, Jan 2009 accessed 11 Oct 2016
  2. Barbara Adams, 1945-2002, by Renée Friedman and Barbara Lesko,, Retrieved 11 October 2016
  3. Barbara Adams,, Retrieved 11 October 2016
  4. Obituary, Harry Smith, The Guardian, 13 July 2002, Retrieved 11 October 2016
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