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Short biography
Margaret Benson was one of six children of Edward White Benson, an Anglican clergyman who rose to become Archbishop of Canterbury, and his wife Mary Sedgwick Benson. Several of her siblings became writers, among them the novelist E.F. Benson and the essayist and poet A.C. Benson, who wrote the lyrics to Edward Elgar's hymn "Land of Hope and Glory." In 1883, Margaret was one of the first women admitted to Oxford University, where she attended the newly-founded Lady Margaret Hall. Fascinated by ancient Egyptian history during a trip to Egypt seeking a warmer climate for her ill health, she wanted to become an archaeologist -- but there were few opportunities for women in this male-dominated profession. After originally being refused, she was finally given permission to excavate at the ruined Temple of Mut, in a remote location south of Karnak, Egypt, which at the time seemed of little significance. Although an amateur archaeologist, she was intellectually rigorous and highly enthusiastic. With her companion, Janet Gourlay, she excavated for three seasons (1895–1897) until her health problems caused her to quit the project. The two women wrote a book about their findings, The Temple of Mut in Asher (1899), aided by several professional Egyptologists including Edouard Naville, Flinders Petrie, and Percy Edward Newberry, who helped translate the inscriptions on the important statues they found. Margaret died at the family home in 1907 at age 50. Her work remains important to the history of the Mut Temple Precinct, which is still being excavated.

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