On 10 July 1907, The Times reported that the archaeologist Flinders Petrie was one of several illustrious guests (some of a distinctly cultural bent) at a luncheon with noted American novelist Mark Twain, more formally known as Samuel Clemens. The author of Huckleberry Finn was about to depart London for Liverpool. MP for East Birmingham John Benjamin Stone, a keen photographer, hosted the meal in the House of Commons’ Harcourt Dining Room.
Stone’s photographs of parliamentary life at the turn of the 20th century are now online in the National Portrait Gallery’s Collections Database. Another of Stone’s photographs, dated 17 July 1908, also features Flinders Petrie, seated at the far right of the image. It records another luncheon party - this time for the Japanese Ambassador, Count Komura. Petrie was then in London for the duration of his annual exhibition of antiquities from his excavations at Memphis and Athribis in Egypt.
Most of the photographs of Petrie that regularly appear in publications show him on site in Egypt or Palestine, actively engaged in the methodical investigation of ancient civilisations. However, archaeologists were often notable public figures in late 19th and early 20th Britain; Petrie’s presence at these luncheon parties is evidence of archaeologists’ ‘public face’ in political and cultural life.
In August 1908 Petrie participated in the international Constitution Congress, formed to debate the comparative characteristics of constitutions in participating countries. The Congress was held in the Congress Hall of the Franco-British Exhibition, then running in White City, London. Petrie's contribution was a paper on the English constitution called "The Estates of the Realm".
The Times. 10 July 1907. Court Circular. (38381, Col B), p. 10.
The Times. 18 July 1908. The Japanese Ambassador. (37802, Col C), p. 13.
The Times. 8 August 1908. The Constitution Congress. (38270, Col C), p 3.
The Times. 3 July 1914. Death of Sir B. Stone. The Photographer of the House of Commons. Pictures of Historic Interest. (40566, Col F), p. 8.