The Great Belzoni (1778 -1823)
Giovanni Battista Belzoni — Italian showman, engineer and explorer of Egyptian antiquities, was born on November 15, 1778 at Padua, of northeastern Italy. Padua is a walled city highly noted as a center for agriculture, the Basilica of Saint Anthony, and its famous University and is located 27 miles west of Venice. His quest for adventure brought him to England in 1803 and by means of his gigantic physique, earned a living in circuses in England, Spain and Portugal and where he was billed as “The Great Belzoni.”
In 1815 he went to Cairo to offer to Mohammed Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt, a hydraulic machine he had invented, which worked extremely well. While in Egypt he met the British Consul General, Henry Salt, who engaged him to travel to Thebes to remove the colossal stone head of Rameses II (The Young Memnon) to be delivered to the British Museum. His success prompted Henry Salt to further Belzoni’s expeditions to the temple of Edfu, Philae and Elephantine, where he cleared the great temple of Rameses II at Abu Simbel, excavated at Karnak, and in 1817 discovered the tomb of the pharaoh Seti I, in the Valley of the Kings. Belzoni was the first person to penetrate into the second pyramid of Giza (1818) by using his engineering genius to locate the entrance to the inner chambers, and the first European to visit the oasis of Siwah, and identify the ruined city of Berenice on the Red Sea. He returned to England in 1819 and a year later published his Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries Within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs and Excavations, in Egypt and Nubia (2 vol., atlas of plates, 3rd ed., 1822).
In 1823 Belzoni set out for Timbuktu in West Africa, but died at the village of Gwato, near Benin, Nigeria December 3, 1823. In 1825 his widow exhibited in Paris and London his drawings and models of the royal tombs of Thebes.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica