Collection history - the nineteenth century

Antiquities other than sculpture continued to accrue. Townley's vases, terracottas, bronzes, coins and sealstones came in 1814 and especially fine bronzes were bequeathed by Richard Payne Knight in 1824. In 1836 vases were bought at the sale of Edmé-Antoine Durand that had come out of Etruscan tombs in central Italy on the estates of Lucien Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon. These Etruscan tombs were to be a rich source of both Greek and Etruscan antiquities and in the late 1830s and 40s the Museum made several major acquisitions from various dealers and collectors. Besides Italy, there were also collections put together in Greece and Asia Minor, including that of Thomas Burgon who offered his antiquities to the Museum in 1842.

Sir William Hamilton was one of many British diplomatic representatives abroad whose enlightened interest in the ancient cultures of the countries they visited were to expand the collections of the British Museum. They included one of Hamilton's successors at Naples, Sir William Temple, whose collection was acquired in 1856. There was also Lord Elgin (1766-1841) and Sir Stratford Canning (1786-1880), a successor of Elgin at Constantinople, through whom the frieze of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos was acquired in 1846.

The 1840s were remarkable also for the excavations conducted in Lykia by Charles Fellows, with the permission of the Turkish authorities. In 1842 and again in 1844 the museum acquired parts of several major tombs that Fellows had excavated in the Lykian capital at Xanthos.

This was the first of a series of controlled excavations carried out on behalf of the Museum with local permission, most of which brought important architectural sculpture. They include those of Nathan Davis at Carthage (1856-58), Charles Newton in Asia Minor (1857-59), R. Murdoch Smith and E. A. Porcher at Cyrene in North Africa (1860-61), R.P. Pullan at Priene in Asia Minor (1868-69) and J. T. Wood at Ephesus (1864-74). Smaller-scale finds came from the excavations of Sir Alfred Biliotti at Ialysos on the island of Rhodes (1868-1870), and these were significant as the first substantial group of Greek Bronze Age objects to enter the British Museum. Further prehistoric material came with the collection formed by James Woodhouse on Corfu, and bequeathed by him in 1866.

Alessandro Castellani, a member of the family of jewellers in Rome famous for work in 'archaeological' style, was the source of many pieces acquired in 1865 and in the 1870's. This material included not only examples of very fine ancient jewellery, but also important sculptures in marble and bronze and a very large collection of Greek vases. Pieces from the Pourtalès collection also arrived in 1865, while outstanding gems and cameos came from the collection formed by two successive Ducs de Blacas, purchased in1866.

Material collected from Greece in the second half of the 19th century included much that came via Charles Merlin, British Consul in Athens: an active collector and dealer from whom a number of terracotta figurines of the 'Tanagra' type were purchased. Substantial acquisition of material from Cyprus began with some pieces bought from the ethnographer Henry Christy in 1865 (Christy later became a major donor of ethnographic material) and from D. E. Colnaghi, British Consul on the island, in 1866, while 1872 saw the purchase of material from the excavations of Robert (later Sir Robert) Hamilton Lang in the sanctuary of Apollo at Idalion.

Finds from the excavations of General Luigi Palma di Cesnola were purchased in 1871 and 1876, while material found by Max Ohnefalsch Richter in the sanctuary of Artemis at Achna arrived in 1883. The British Museum conducted excavations between 1893 and 1899 at Amathus, Kourion, Enkomi, Maroni, Hala Sultan Tekké, Klavdia and Kouklia, and these greatly enriched the holdings of Cypriot material.