Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Sad news

Dominic Montserrat, who has died suddenly at his home in
London, was an extraordinarily gifted Egyptologist,
who combined his technical work as a scholar with an
immense talent for introducing his subject to a wider
audience. He went on from school to study Egyptology
at Durham, and subsequently took a PhD in Classics
from University College, London, specialising in
Egyptian, Coptic, Greek, and papyrology, to which he
added a variety of modern languages, including Arabic.
His first job was as a lecturer in Classics at Warwick
University, but his increasingly unreliable health,
led him to resign from Warwick and move to the Open
University where he worked in the research group
devising a course on Art and Society in the Later
Roman Empire, which allowed him to continue
professionally without having to meet a regular
schedule of undergraduate teaching. Like some other
haemophiliacs, his health was inadvertently undermined
by unscreened blood transfusions before the necessity
for screening was established, which gave him
hepatitis B and C. It became clear to him gradually
that he was living on borrowed time, and when he felt
he could not continue even in the relatively
unstructured environment of the Open University, he
resigned. In his brief working life, he was
nonetheless amazingly productive. As well as his
technical works on papyrology, which are of the first
quality, he wrote a number of radio plays and other
works exploring such topics as mediumistic or
fantastic evocations of ancient Egypt. His second
book, on the heretic pharaoh, Akhenaton: History,
Fantasy, and Ancient Egypt, explores these themes. He
also curated a well-received exhibition for the Petrie
Museum, Digging for Dreams. His last major project
was a series of documentaries for Channel Five,
co-presented with Miriam Cooke, The Egypt
Detectives, not merely a popularising rehash of the
already-known, but in fact, a series which presents
genuine and important discoveries in Egyptian
archaeology. With all that, he packed in an
extraordinary amount of life into a very few years
he travelled widely and adventurously, particularly in
the Middle East, with extraordinary bravery,
considering the risks which travel posed for a man for
whom a bruise could lead to months of continuous pain.
His health took a significant turn for the worse last
summer, and he had been aware since the New Year that
he had little future to look forward to. His funeral will be private.

We'd never heard of him, but share our condolences with his friends and loved ones.