Reginald Campbell Thompson (Biographical details)

Reginald Campbell Thompson (curator; archaeologist; British; Male; 21 August 1876 - 23 May 1941)

Also known as

Thompson, Reginald Campbell; Campbell Thompson, Reginald


Assyriologist. Born at Cranley Place, South Kensington, the eldest of five children of Dr Reginald Edward Thompson (1834-1912), M.D., F.R.C.P., and Anne Isabella De Morgan. Educated at Colet Court (until 1889) and St. Paul's School in West Kensington where he became the captain of the School's rifle team; it was during these school days that he became interested in Assyriology and copied cuneiform inscriptions displayed in The British Museum and which earned him a special award. He entered Caius College Cambridge in 1895 where he read Oriental (Hebrew and Aramaic) Languages; in 1897 he won the Stewart of Rannoch Hebrew Scholarship and was put in the First Class in the Oriental Tripos the following year. In 1899 he was appointed an Assistant in the Egyptian and Assyrian Department of The British Museum where he worked until his resignation in December 1905.

He travelled to Norway (1900); Egypt, where he visited the turquoise mines at Serabit el-Khadim and thereafter presented some objects to the Natural History Museum (1902); North Africa (1903). In 1904 he assisted L. W. King (q.v.) (1869-1919) in the copying of the trilingual cuneiform inscription at Bisitun as well as lesser inscriptions at Sar-i Pol; resumed King's excavations at Nineveh in 1904/05 where he found the remains of the Temple of Nabu. After his return he resigned from The British Museum and joined the service of the Sudanese Government, where he worked on a survey until summer 1906. He subsequently held the post of Assistant Professor of Semitic Languages in the University of Chicago (1907-09); he later travelled in Turkey where he recorded a number of Hittite hieroglyph inscriptions (summer 1909), excavated at Carchemish with D.G. Hogarth (q.v.) before returning to England to marry Barbara Brodrick and take up residence near Hindhead (1911). He returned to the field in Egypt to excavate a Coptic site in the Wadi Sargah, south of Asyut (1913/14) but following the outbreak of the First World War enlisted as an officer on Special Service and was posted to the Indian Expeditionary Force 'D', where he served during the Mesopotamian campaign. Owing to his archaeological experience he was subsequently attached to the Political Service in Iraq with responsibility for the antiquities of that country; he surveyed part of the Nasiriyah district and excavated trial trenches at Ur and Eridu before being demobilised in early 1919. The subsequent years saw him writing fiction as well as Assyriological works, until he was awarded a stipendiary Fellowship at Merton College Oxford in 1923 (and becoming Sub-Warden 1933-35); Merton College supported his renewed excavations at Nineveh on behalf of The British Museum, where he excavated on the site of the Temples of Nabu and Ishtar where he had the assistance of R.W. Hutchinson (q.v.), R.W. Hamilton (q.v.) and M.E.L. Mallowan (1927-31) (q.v.). He won the Seatonian Prize at Camridge with a poem entitled 'Ignatius' (1933).

Thompson maintained a keen interest in walking and shooting throughout his life, gave annual trapeze performances, and was a member of the Territorial Association. He married Barbara Brodrick in 1911, and had one daughter (Yolande) and two sons (Reginald Perronet and John De Morgan).

He died suddenly on 23 May 1941 while coming off duty with the Home Guard River Patrol on the Upper Thames.

ME archives include a letter from A.E. Hillard to Wallis Budge (q.v.) about Thompson's school-days; letter dated 10 February 1919. A large collection of his excavated finds from Nineveh (1905, 1927/28-1931/32) and Abu Shahrain (1918/19) are in The British Museum.

Author of: 'The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon' (1900); 'On Traces of an Indefinite Article in Assyrian' (1902); 'The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia' (1903/04); 'Late Babylonian Letters' (1906/07); 'Cuneiform Texts in the British Museum', vols XI-XII, XIV, XVI-XX, XII-XXIII (the last two with King) (1900 ff.); 'Semitic Magic: its Origin and Development' (1908); 'A Pilgrim's Scrip' (London: John Lane, 1915); 'A Small Handbook to the History and Antiquities of Mesopotamia from the Earliest Times to the End of the Sasanian Period' (Baghdad, 1918) [reviewed in JRAS 1919: 605-607]; 'A Song of Araby' (1921, pseud. John Guisborough); 'A Mirage of Sheba' (1923, pseud. John Guisborough); 'Assyrian Medical Texts in the British Museum' (1923); 'Assyrian Herbal' (1924); 'On the Chemistry of the Ancient Assyrians' (1925); 'A Catalogue of the Late Babylonian Tablets in the Bodleian Library, Oxford' (1927); 'The Epic of Gilgamish [sic]: a New Translation ... rendered literally into English Hexameters' (1928); 'The Epic of Gilgamish. Text, Transliteration, and Notes' (1930); 'The Prisms of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal found at Nineveh' (1931); 'Ignatius' (1933); 'A Dictionary of Assyrian Chemistry and Geology' (1936).


G. R. Driver, "Reginald Campbell Thompson, 1876-1941", 'Proceedings of the British Academy' 30, 1-39; E.A.W. Budge, 'The Rise and Progress of Assyriology', London: Martin Hopkinson & Co, (1925), pp.178-81, portrait opposite p.178; Nicole Chevalier, 'La recherche archéologique française au moyen-orient 1842-1947', Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 2002, p. 226.