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    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Hayes, William C.

    Other Names:

    • William Christopher Hayes

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 21 March 1903

    Date Died: 10 July 1963

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA [Hempstead, Long Island]

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Egyptian (ancient) and Egyptology

    Career(s): art historians and curators

    Institution(s): Metropolitan Museum of Art


    Egyptologist; Curator of the Department of Egyptology, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. William C. Hayes’ father William C. Hayes Sr. was a British national, and his mother Helen Hawthorne Maule (Hayes) was from a prominent Philadelphia family. Growing up in Warrenton, Virginia, Hayes then attended William Penn Charter School (then known as Penn Charter) in Pennsylvania and Saint George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island. He obtained an M.A. in 1924 and an M.F.A. in 1926, both from Princeton University. During his time at Princeton, Hayes won a Carnegie scholarship for the study of medieval and Byzantine art and traveled to Scotland, England, France, and Italy. He also participated in the excavations at Carthage led by the University of Michigan.

    In 1927 Hayes was appointed by Albert Lythgoe as an assistant for the excavations of the Metropolitan Museum at Deir el Bahri. He was an accomplished archeologist, based on his previous excavation experience, though he had little acquaintance with Egyptian art. This job directed him toward a new field. He stayed at Deir el Bahri until 1931 and then went to the excavation site at Lisht for another five years. In 1932, Hayes married Mary Isom (d.1958) , who later married George H. Forsyth after their divorce. His work in Egypt impressed Alan Gardiner (1897-1963), one of the premier Egyptologists of that time. During a break from excavations in 1933, Hayes went to Oxford to study hieroglyphics with Gardiner. In 1935, he obtained his Ph.D. from Princeton with a dissertation Royal Sarcophagi of the XVIII Dynasty, inspired by Herbert Winlock (1884-1950) and written under Charles R. Morey (1877-1955). His dissertation was published as a book by the Princeton University Press in the same year.

    After nine years of working on the excavations in Egypt, Hayes was appointed Assistant Curator of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1936. He served as a lieutenant commander in the Navy during World War II from 1941 to 1945. He married Elise Scheffler of Princeton (d.1961), a portrait painter better known as Tokio. After the war, he resumed his work at the Met as Associate Curator and was promoted to Curator of the museum’s Egyptian Department in 1952, replacing Herbert Winlock. Although finished in 1946, the first volume of his book, The Scepter of Egypt: a Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, was finally published in 1953. He was sent to Egypt in 1954 and in 1959 to communicate archaeological discoveries. The second volume of The Scepter of Egypt was released in 1959, two years after its completion. Hayes contributed four chapters on Egyptian history to the revised Cambridge Ancient History, published in 1961 and 1962. Hayes married his old friend Leigh Ramsay Pollack three months before his death. William C. Hayes died suddenly in New York on July 10, 1963. He was succeeded at the Met by Henry G. Fischer (1964–1970).

    Hayes was a leading authority on the history of Egyptian art and translations of texts during his time. His best-known book, The Scepter of Egypt, is “an admirable introduction to Egyptian art, archaeology and history” (Dunham and Ficher). Serving as a handbook to the Metropolitan Museum’s collection of Egyptian art, The Scepter of Egypt remains a valuable reference for Egyptologists. His publications exemplify his ability to combine archaeological observation with philosophical knowledge (Dawson). Based on his work experience at Deir el Bahri, Hayes produced Glazed Tiles from a Palace of Ramesses II at Kantīr (1937), Ostraka and name stones from the tomb of Sen-Mūt (no. 71) at Thebes (1942), among other publications (Dawson). The Texts in the Maṣṭabeh of Seʾn-Wosret-ʻankh at Lisht (1937) compiles Pyramid Texts discovered at Lisht (Dawson).

    Hayes’ ambition was to create a comprehensive history of Egypt, better interpreting Egyptian culture to his contemporaries. At the end of his life, he was working on an encyclopedic four-volume work on Egyptian history, which he never finished, and planning for a second and more ambitious re-exhibition of the collections at the Met (Dunham and Ficher). He was a prolific writer with eight books, thirty-eight articles, and numerous book reviews (Seele).

    Selected Bibliography

    • [dissertation] “Royal Sarcophagi of the XVIII Dynasty” Princeton Monographs in Art and Archaeology 19, (1935)
    • [biography] Seele, Keith C., ed. Most Ancient Egypt. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.
    • Glazed Tiles from a Palace of Ramesses II at Kantīr. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1937.
    • The Texts in the Mastabeh of Se’n-Wosret-‘ankh at Lisht. New York, 1937.
    • Ostraka and Name Stones from the Tomb of Sen-Mūt (no. 71) at Thebes. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Egyptian Expedition, 1942.
    • The Scepter of Egypt, a Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Part I: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. New York: Harper/Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1953.
    •  A Papyrus of the Late Middle Kingdom in the Brooklyn Museum (Papyrus Brooklyn 35.1446). Edited with Translation and Commentary. Brooklyn Museum, 1955.
    • The Scepter of Egypt, a Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Part II: The Hyksos Period and the New Kingdom (1675-108 B.C.). Cambridge, Massachusetts (Published for the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Harvard University Press), 1959.
    • The Cambridge Ancient History, Revised Edition of Volumes I and II. Cambridge University Press, 1962.


    • ​​[obituary] Aldred, Cyril. “William C. Hayes.” Nature 200, no. 4911, (December 14, 1963): 1048-1049.
    • ​​[obituary] “Obituary Information for Stephen Hayes.” n.d. Accessed June 14, 2024.
    • ​​[obituary] “William C. Hayes, Museum Curator: Egyptian Art Chief at the Metropolitan Is Dead”, New York Times July 11, 1963, p. 28.
    • Dunham, Dows, and Henry G. Fischer. “William Christopher Hayes.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 1963. 2:7–14.
    • Dawson, Warren R.; Uphill, Eric P. Who Was Who in Egyptology: a Biographical Index of Egyptologists; of Travellers, Explorers, and Excavators in Egypt; of Collectors of and Dealers in Egyptian Antiquities; of Consuls, Officials, Authors, Benefactors, and Others whose Names Occur in the Literature of Egyptology. – 2nd rev. ed. – London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1972, p.136-137.
    • Shavit, David: The United States in the Middle East: a Historical Dictionary. – New York: Greenwood Press, 1988, p.160.


    "isham." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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