Ilona Regulski of The British Museum

Ilona is the curator responsible for the papyrus collection and other inscribed material. She is interested in developing methods to enhance understanding of material features of scripts and handwritings within their social context, for example by means of handwriting analysis, and palaeography.

Her Egyptological life started at the University of Leuven (Belgium) where she obtained a BA, an MA and, eventually, a PhD in Near Eastern Studies with a specialty in Egyptology. She combined her PhD research with a further specialization in Ancient Egyptian languages at the University of Münster (Germany) and a subsequent fellowship in the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels. Afterwards, she spend 6 years in Cairo as the Assistant Director of the Dutch-Flemish Institute; half a year as a lecturer at Yale University and 3 years at the Free University of Berlin. In between and during these appointed positions, she participated in a number of fieldwork projects in Egypt, the Sudan, and Turkey. 

Her PhD thesis investigated the origins and early development of the writing system in Egypt, from its first appearance around 3250BC until the construction of the great pyramids. Since then, her research expanded to scribal culture of later periods (mainly second millennium BC) with a (recent) focus on Middle Kingdom magical and mortuary texts.


The stimulus to create writing in ancient Egypt should be related to a growing complexity of interaction between different regional polities and the establishment of a central “court” at the end of the 4th millennium BC. The expansion of this court culture was one of the factors leading to the founding of a highly centralized state involving the codification of a ‘national identity’. We have to think in terms of great artists and architects. Using the early iconographic record, those creative individuals thought out a remarkably homogeneous formal script that conforms in style to the developing canon of formal art. Other (earlier) communication and signage systems which did not include written language did not disappear but kept their collective significance in a society where most people were illiterate.
 - Regulski