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Hay, Robert

Explorer
1799-1863

British watercolorist who traveled and worked in Egypt 1824-1834, and produced many drawings of the Valley of the Kings that are now in the British Museum and largely unpublished. Hay was born in Berwickshire, Scotland in 1799. Navy service brought him to Alexandria in 1818 and this visit, coupled with reading Belzoni's works, inspired him to return to Egypt. For ten years beginning in 1824, Hay explored Egypt, making sketches and watercolors of sites. He often traveled with other artists, including Joseph Bonomi and Edward Lane. He sailed up the Nile to Abu Simbel, stopping at sites along the way to document them and make plaster casts of reliefs. The area that impressed Hay most was ancient Thebes and he spent time in the Valley of the Kings. During his stay there he lived in the tomb of Rameses IV (KV 2) while his artist friends stayed in the tomb of Rameses VI (KV 9). During this time, he made watercolors of tomb interiors. In 1828 Hay married Kalitza Psaraki, a former slave taken from her homeland of Crete to Egypt by the Turks. She accompanied Hay during the rest of his exploration in Egypt. The 1840 publication of his lithographs of Cairo was not popular, but the images are of great value to Egyptologists today. There is a 47-volume set of unpublished books at the British Museum Library of Hay's notes and drawings. He gave the artifacts and plaster casts he collected to the British Museum. Robert Hay died in East Lothian in 1863.