September 18, 2019
It is with deep sadness the AIA shares news of the passing of Dr. Lanny Bell. We offer our sincere condolences to his family, colleagues, former students, and friends in the world of Egyptology.
Lanny Bell (1941-2019)
Lanny Bell, one of the greats of Egyptology over the last 50 years passed away August 26th in Old Saybrook, Connecticut at the age of 78. He was a lifelong member of the AIA, and one of our most popular lecturers. He brought exciting talks to Societies throughout the country from Boston to Honolulu for almost 50 years. He held our most prestigious lectureships, the Norton, Joukowsky, Kershaw Lecture, and the Helene J. Kantor Memorial Lecture. When I organized the Honolulu Chapter of AIA in 1996, the first person I called upon to lecture was Lanny, since I knew he would bring excitement and the best of AIA. Lanny was the president of the Chicago Society of the Archaeological Institute of America from 1992 to 1996.
Lanny was born April 30, 1941 in Fort Dodge, Iowa and graduated from the local high school in 1959. He studied Greek there, and a high school classmate even remarked that Lanny wrote in Greek in his Yearbook. His love of antiquity took him to the University of Chicago where he fell in love with Egypt and graduated with a bachelors degree in Egyptology in 1963, He started graduate studies there, but before he finished his degree, he was lured to Egypt where he excavated with the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He took over as field director of the University Museum Theban Temple Tomb Project at Dra Abut el-Naga from 1967-1977. He switched his academic affiliation to the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded a PhD in 1976. He then became field director of the University of Chicago’s Epigraphic survey at Chicago House from 1977-1989. In 1989 he decided to return to the United States and took a position as a professor in the Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department of the University of Chicago. He retired in 1996, and then moved to Connecticut. But his abounding energy did not let him sit still. He began teaching at Brown University and also leading tours to Egypt.
Besides his outstanding publications, such as “Aspects of the Cult of the Deified Tutankhamun,” Lanny was sought out by the press and media for insights on Egypt. He even briefed former President Jimmy Carter on Egyptian culture and history. He continued his productive career in retirement with “(Late Middle Kingdom) Clay Sealings from the Moat Deposit (at the MBIIA Gate of Ashkelon)” — co-author with Daphna Ben-Tor (2016).
In 1968 Lanny married fellow graduate student Martha Rhoads Bell, who became a distinguished Egyptologist in her own rights. She and Lanny spent many productive and happy years together in Luxor where they made Chicago House a warm and inviting home where scholars and visitors were welcomed. Sadly, Martha was killed in an automobile accident in 1991. He married Jill Baker in 1994 (div. 2006).
Sadly, during his final years he battled Alzheimer’s Disease to which he finally succumbed. He will be remembered for his wit, passion for Egypt, humor and friendship.
“May they grant you eternity without its limit (as well as) unboundedness without its end” (Sinuhe B 212)
Robert J. Littman
University of Hawaii at Manoa