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James Haliburton

Birthplace: London, England
Death: Died in Edinburgh, Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of James Burton (Haliburton) and Elizabeth Burton
Husband of Andreeana Haliburton From 1838
Brother of William Ford Burton; Emma Elizabeth Haliburton; Eliza Haliburton; Emily Burton; Jane Burton and 10 others

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About James Haliburton

James Burton (22 September 1788 – 22 February 1862), formerly James Haliburton, was an early British Egyptologist, who worked at a number of sites throughout Egypt, but notably in the Valley of the Kings.

  • Second son of James Haliburton, who changed his name to Burton, of Mabledon, Tonbridge.
  • Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Between 1815 and 1822 Burton worked for the architect Sir John Soane and traveled in Italy with his secretary, Charles Humphreys, where he met Egyptologists Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, Edward William Lane, and Sir William Gell.

In 1822, despite having no mineralogical knowledge, he was invited by Pasha Mohammed Ali to work as a mineralogist in the Geological Survey of Egypt. He left in 1824 and started to investigate the ancient monuments of Egypt. In 1825, he traveled south on the Nile journeying to Abu Simbel. He spent several months in Thebes, excavating at Medinet Habu, Karnak and in several of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. During this time he entered KV5, but only partially explored the first few chambers.

Between 1825 and 1828 Burton published a volume of hieroglyphic inscriptions. From 1825 to 1834 little is known of his activities, but on 25 December 1835 Burton returned to England with various animals, servants and slaves including Andreana, a Greek slave who had been purchased for him some years before in Egypt and whom he had subsequently married. As a consequence of this marriage his family disowned him.

His drawings and plans of ancient Egyptian monuments remain useful as they can be compared to the condition of the archaeological sites in Egypt today. During his years in Egypt Burton collected Egyptian antiquities, most of which were auctioned at Sotheby's in 1836 to repay his debts. The only item of his collection which was not auctioned was a mummy and coffin, now in the Liverpool Museum.

None of Burton's explorations were published, but his notebooks and sketches were donated to the British Museum after his death.

He was the eldest brother of Decimus Burton the architect, and son of James Burton the famous London Builder.

When James died in Edinburgh in 1862 he had reverted to his true name of Haliburton, the Burton name having less kudos in Scotland. He is buried near the centre of Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. His epitaph reads "a zealous investigator in Egypt of its language and antiquities."

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James Haliburton's Timeline

London, England
February 22, 1862
Age 74
Edinburgh, Scotland