Chubb, Mary 1903-2003

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CHUBB, Mary 1903-2003


Born March 22, 1903, in London, England; died January 22, 2003, in Salisbury, England. Education: Attended Central School of Art.


Writer. Taught Latin in boys' preparatory school; worked as secretary for Egypt Exploration Society, London, England; participated in archeological excavations in Egypt and Iraq.



Nefertiti Lived Here, illustrated by Ralph Lavers, Geoffrey Bles (London, England), 1954, reprinted, Libri (London, England), 2001.

City in the Sand, Crowell (New York, NY), 1957, Libri (London, England), 2001.

(For juveniles) An Alphabet of Ancient Egypt, illustrated by Jill Wyatt, Watts International (London, England), 1966, Watts (New York, NY), 1967.

(For juveniles) An Alphabet of Ancient Greece, Book One: Early Days, illustrated by Jill Wyatt, Watts International (London, England), 1967, Watts (New York, NY), 1968.

(For juveniles) An Alphabet of Ancient Greece, Book Two: The Golden Years, illustrated by Jill Wyatt, Watts International (London, England), 1968.

(For juveniles) An Alphabet of Assyria and Babylonia, illustrated by Wyatt, Geoffrey Bles (London, England), 1969.

(For juveniles) An Alphabet of Ancient Rome, illustrated by Jill Wyatt, Geoffrey Bles (London, England), 1971.

(For juveniles) An Alphabet of the Holy Land, illustrated by Jill Wyatt, Geoffrey Bles (London, England), 1973.

Contributor to magazines, including Punch, and to BBC radio.


British author Mary Chubb is best known for her accounts of archeological excavations, Nefertiti Lived Here and City in the Sand. Critics have praised these books as sound works of scholarship that are nevertheless accessible and appealing; according to a London Times obituary of Chubb, they "seem likely to become small classics." Chubb, initially a secretary to the explorers, quickly took on a larger role in the digs described in these volumes. The excavations took place in the 1930s, but Chubb did not write them until the 1950s, after a traffic accident had left her disabled. She also wrote numerous magazine articles and radio programs as well a group of books explaining ancient cultures to children. Both Nefertiti Lived Here and City in the Sand were reprinted late in Chubb's life, and "she was delighted at the renewed success of the books," related Kathryn Holloway in an obituary for the London Express.

Nefertiti Lived Here deals with an excavation of the site of the ancient city Tell el Amarna in Egypt. This was the city from which King Akhenaten ruled with his beautiful and apparently influential wife, Nefertiti, in the fourteenth century B.C. Akhenaten was considered a heretic because he had rejected traditional Egyptian pantheistic religion and set up a new belief system that recognized only one god, the sun god Aten, with Akhenaten being the god's emissary. Tell el Amarna endured only for about a decade and a half, as Akhenaten's successor, young Tutankhamun, moved the capital back to Karnak. Official records of Egyptian history did not begin to even acknowledge Tell el Amarna's existence until about 1900. The dig in which Chubb participated took place about thirty years later. Her book, "one of the best memoirs of excavation life," is "uniquely engaging and of interest to everyone from the novice to the scholar," commented Fred Rhodes in Middle East.

In City in the Sand Chubb recounts the discovery and exploration of Eshnunna, an ancient city in what is now Iraq. Eshnunna was an important city during the second millennium B.C.; it was ruled for a time by the neighboring city of Ur, then was the seat of a small, independent kingdom before being conquered by Hammurabi. Its contributions to civilization include the Laws of Eshnunna, a written set of codes developed several years before Hammurabi formulated his. Chubb's story of the finds at Eshnunna "is not just of great historical interest but an imaginative re-telling of a human one," observed Rhodes in Middle East. Chubb provides detailed descriptions not only of the site and the artifacts uncovered but also of her colleagues and the hardships and joys they shared, so that the book "seems almost like a novel in personality and pace," the Times obituary writer remarked.

Both City in the Sand and Nefertiti Lived Here are "suffused with a strong, dramatic sense of the distant past that made it seem close to the present," the Times writer related. In Holloway's estimation, Chubb "shed light on the dusty, academic world of archeology with vivid autobiographical records of camp life … revealing a cast of eccentric Brits abroad and native characters." The Times writer added, "It was Chubb's gift to be able to combine scholarship and fun, the personal and the intelligently treated distance."



Middle East, November, 2001, Fred Rhodes, review of City in the Sand, p. 45; December, 2001, Fred Rhodes, review of Nefertiti Lived Here, p. 41.



Express (London, England), February 11, 2003, Kathryn Holloway, "Mary Chubb, Archeologist; A Lover of the Ancient World," p. 39.

Times (London, England), January 29, 2003, "Mary Chubb, Archeologist Whose Writing Focused on the Human Aspect of the Ancient World."*