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Margaret Alice Murray was born in Calcutta, India, the daughter of a British businessman and a missionary social worker. She moved back and forth between India and England, receiving her early education in England with a governess and then studying in Germany in 1873-75. In 1883, she trained to work as a nurse, but had to abandon this career as she was considered too short of stature. In 1894, she began to study Egyptology at University College London (UCL) under Sir Flinders Petrie, and accompanied him to work on archaeological digs in Egypt and southern Palestine. Margaret Murray was the first in a line of female Egyptologists employed by the Manchester Museum at the University of Manchester. In 1908, she began the unwrapping of the Two Brothers, a Middle Kingdom Egyptian burial now considered a pioneering interdisciplinary study of mummies. Around 1915, she turned her attention to the history of witchcraft in Europe. In 1921, she published her first book on the subject, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. Her work and her association with Prof. Petrie helped her secure a position as a junior lecturer at UCL. In 1925, she was named Assistant Professor of Egyptology, a post she held until her retirement in 1934. She was a prolific writer who produced more than 100 books and articles on anthropology, archeology and Egyptology, including Egyptian Temples (1931) and The Splendour that Was Egypt (1949). After her retirement, she continued to study witchcraft and travelled around the country giving lectures. She published her autobiography shortly before her death in 1963 as My First Hundred Years, recording in it her belief in reincarnation.
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