Rhind, Alexander Henry (DNB00)

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RHIND, ALEXANDER HENRY (1833–1863), antiquary, was born on 26 July 1833 at Wick, Caithness-shire, where his father, Josiah Rhind (d. 1858) of Sibster, Caithness, was a banker. He was educated at Pulteneytown, Caithness, and at Edinburgh University, where he was a student in 1848–50. He was mainly interested in natural history, physics, and Scottish history and antiquities. He began thus early to study the Picts' houses and cairns of his native district, superintending in 1851 the opening and examination of various tumuli in the neighbourhood of Wick. Later in the year he spent several months on the continent, where he visited antiquarian museums in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Prussia, Holland, and Denmark.

In 1852 Rhind sent rubbings of a slab at Ulbster, Caithness, to Dr. John Stuart, of the Society of Antiquaries, Edinburgh, and he was soon elected a fellow of the society. In 1854 he presented to the society the osteological remains from a Pict's house at Kettleburn near Wick (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, i. 264), and suggested to the Crystal Palace Company, London, the erection in Sydenham grounds of models of early British remains. In 1855 he proposed to Lord Duncan, a lord of the treasury, that ‘all primæval vestiges should be carefully laid down on the ordnance map of Scotland,’ in order to furnish an index for archæological inquiries. Troublesome pulmonary symptoms had now asserted themselves, and Rhind relinquished his intention of studying for the Scottish bar. Thenceforth his health was his foremost consideration. In 1853–4 he wintered at Clifton, near Bristol, in 1854–5 at Ventnor, Isle of Wight, and in 1855–6 and 1856–7 in Egypt, where he made important investigations of the tombs at Thebes. Malaga, the north of Africa, the south of France, Italy (where in 1859 he studied Etruscan antiquities at Rome) were visited between 1858 and 1862. Wherever he was he made all possible observations in his own line of work, and sent many papers and specimens to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. In 1862 he went again to Egypt, and some notes which he then made for a projected work on the Nile valley were appended to Stuart's ‘Memoir’ of the author. He had, he said, disentangled two Nubian dialects. After a serious illness in Cairo and Alexandria he managed to struggle homewards as far as the Italian lakes. He died at La Majolica on 3 July 1863, and was buried at Wick.

Rhind's bequests were characteristic and valuable. He left 5,000l. for two scholarships in Edinburgh University, and 7,000l. to found an industrial institution at Wick for orphan girls of certain Caithness parishes. To the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland he bequeathed 400l. for excavations; a library of about sixteen hundred volumes, of which many were rare and valuable; copyright of his treatise on ‘Thebes, its Tombs and their Tenants;’ and a reversionary sum from the estate of Sibster to found a lectureship on archæology, which sum, on the termination of certain life-interests, became available in 1874.

Rhind's chief publication was ‘Thebes, its Tombs and their Tenants Ancient and Present, including a Record of Excavations in the Necropolis’ (1862). This is a standard treatise on its subject. Others of his works were: 1. ‘British Primæval Antiquities’ (1855), a pamphlet prepared as a paper for the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 2. ‘Egypt, its Climate, Character, and Resources as a Winter Resort,’ 1856. 3. ‘The Law of Treasure Trove,’ 1858; a subject then ‘in a very unsatisfactory condition’ (Gent. Mag. 1858, ii. 587).

Among Rhind's many contributions to archæological periodicals were papers on ‘Caithness tumuli’ (Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot.); ‘Classification of Primæval Relics’ (Archæol. Journal); and ‘Megalithic Vestiges in North Africa’ (Archæologia, xxxviii. 52). In 1863 appeared ‘Facsimiles of two Papyri found in a Tomb at Thebes, with a translation by Samuel Birch, LL.D.; and an account of their Discovery by A. Henry Rhind, Esq., F.S.A.’

[Memoir of Alexander Henry Rhind of Sibster, by John Stuart.]

T. B.