ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL INSTITUTION OF GREAT BRITAIN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Giovanni Belzoni (1778-1824), Italian explorer of antiquities. Belzoni was born at Padua, but at the age of 16 he moved to Rome to study hydraulics. He intended to take monastic vows, but when the French invaded in 1798 he moved to the Netherlands and then to England. A tall man (over 2 metres), he worked for a while in a travelling circus as a strongman. During a tour of Europe he met an Egyptian official with whom he discussed an idea for raising water from the Nile. Belzoni was allowed to make a prototype, but the project was dropped. Looking for work, he fell in with the Egyptologists exploring at the time. Belzoni moved the 7-tonne stone bust of Ramesses II to a dock allowing it to be sent to England. Starting his own investigations, he was the first to enter the second pyramid at Giza and he cleared the temple of Abu Simbel of sand. He died in Benin, West Africa, of dysentery.
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