In addition to collecting what others found worthless, Flinders Petrie developed a system for cataloging finds that became known as sequence dating.
Each time he found a shard or an intact pot, the archaeologist recorded exactly where it was found on the specimen itself, along with other artifacts found nearby.
The adventurous archaeologist eventually determined that every measurement taken by Piazzi-Smyth was incorrect.
By the end of his career he had published more than 1,000 books, articles and reviews, according to The British Museum.
The child once considered too frail to attend school died in Jerusalem at age 89 after spending nearly 40 years hiking around deserts, digging into ancient sites and making history of his own.
He suffered from ill health as a child and his mother, a scholar herself, tutored him until he was a teen-ager, when another bout of illness ended his formal education.
However, as the grandson of the first man to map the coasts of Australia, Captain Matthew Flinders, young William inherited his ancestor’s penchant for exploration despite limitations.
Beyond his measuring precision, Flinders Petrie made two other major contributions to the science of archaeology: attention to the shards of earthenware that other archaeologists had considered trash, and the development of a method known as “sequence dating.” Unlike his predecessors in Egyptian excavation, he saw beyond broken pieces of pottery to their significance as evidence of ancient civilizations.
In fact, he sent back so many specimens that his collection is housed today in its own museum in London as well as in The British Museum.
He then made several trips to Egypt between 18 to confirm his theory.
On his expeditions, Flinders Petrie measured both the Great Pyramid on several occasions and other monuments at Saqqara, Dahshur, Abu Rawash and tombs located behind a temple in Thebes.
In fact, in her biography of Flinders Petrie on the website Tour Egypt, writer Marie Parsons quotes James Baikie, author of the book “A Century of Excavation in the Land of the Pharaohs”: “If the name of any one man must be associated with modern excavation as that of the chief begetter of its principles and methods, it must be the name of Professor Sir W. Tutored by his father in how to use a sextant and make maps (shades of Grandfather Flinders!
), the younger man conducted his own expeditions around local sites.
Together with his protégé James Quibell, Flinders Petrie unearthed some 200 shallow graves to find every occupant’s body lying in a fetal position surrounded by a wealth of grave goods.