SAMI GABRA (1893-1979)

An Egyptian archaeologist. After studying at the American College at Asyut, he decided to embark on a legal career and obtained bachelor and doctoral degrees from Bordeaux University. He then taught law at the old Egyptian University.

In 1926 he obtained the diploma of archaeology from Liverpool University, and in 1929, a Sorbonne doctorate in archaeology. On his return to Egypt, he started his archaeological career as a curator of the Egyptian Museum. He was appointed professor of ancient Egyptian history at the newly established Egyptian University and was the first Egyptian to head the Institute of Egyptian Archaeology.

He combined his activities with excavations at Upper Egyptian sites, especially prehistoric sites near Asyut, at Dayr Tasa. But his name will always be linked with Tunah al-Jabal, the necropolis of Hermopolis Magna, where he worked for over twenty years. There, he uncovered a funerary city of over twenty-eight acres that had been in constant development for six centuries, from the time of Alexander the Great up to the third century A.D.

After his retirement in 1953, he taught for two years at the University of Chicago. Upon his return to Egypt, he took an active part in establishing the Museum, one of the best provincial museums in Egypt. With Aziz S. Atiya, he collaborated in founding the Institute of Coptic Studies, where he was active for many years as its director. He was also a founding member of the SOCIETY OF COPTIC ARCHAEOLOGY in 1934. Gabra produced numerous excavation reports, lectures, and articles in Arabic, English, and French. Some of the most important are: Peintures et fresques de Touna-al-Gabal, with the collaboration of E. Drioton (Cairo, 1941); and les derniers adorateurs du Trismégiste: La Nécropole d’Hermopolis (Cairo, 1971).


  • Ghali, M. B. “Sami Gabra (1893-1979).” Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 24 (1979-1982):128-30.