In the early 1920s, Myrtle Broome, an educated, middle class woman, was living quietly in Bushey. She spent her days painting and practicing other arts and crafts.

Within a few years, however, the steady nature of her day-to-day life was dramatically enlivened by a series of visits to Egypt.

Myrtle was born in London, the daughter of a music publisher.

She first studied at an art school in Bushey before an enduring interest in Ancient Egypt led her to study Egyptology at University College London.

In 1798, European interest in Egypt was kindled with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, bringing attention to the pyramids and the sphinx.

Perhaps the most important discovery in Egyptology was the finding of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, which provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Today it is the most-visited object in the British Museum.

The Victorians in particular seemed to be unable to resist the allure of Ancient Egypt. Archaeological discoveries were front page news and provoked much excitement. Artifacts from Egyptian ruins were in high demand as decor in British homes.

In 1877, an obelisk from Alexandria was transported to England and erected on the banks of the Thames. The monument inspired even greater fascination with Egypt. It still stands today, and is known as Cleopatra’s Needle.

Victorians were obsessed with Egypt in part because they considered Egypt to be the Britain of the ancient world - a superior civilisation conquering all of the land within reach.

In 1927, Myrtle joined in copying inscriptions in the tombs at Qau el-Kebir. It was thanks to this experience that she was hired, two years later, by the Egypt Exploration Society to join Egyptologist Amice Calverley at a temple in Egypt.

Amice had begun her career in Egyptology in 1927, becoming involved with the Egyptian Exploration Society. She taught herself drawing for archaeology, during which process she upset a bottle of ink over an ancient piece of pottery in the British Museum.

For the next eight years Myrtle and Amice copied the painted reliefs in the temple with the hopes of publishing their findings. Besides reinforcing photographs, they did watercolour copies of some scenes as colour photography was still in its infancy.

Because such copy work allowed no freedom of expression, Myrtle found an outlet for her artistic talents by sketching and painting scenes of the local village.

The expedition was relatively small, consisting of Amice, Myrtle and a couple of other artists. They lived in a mud-brick house near the temple where they worked.

Myrtle and Amice made a well-matched pair. They were both deeply committed to their work and took great interest in the life of the local villagers, who invited them to all their feasts and ceremonies.

As well as their archaeological work, Myrtle and Amice provided rudimentary medical help to the local villagers, who were suspicious of hospitals. In most cases, this amounted to little more than providing a good dose of Epsom Salts, but occasionally they became involved with more serious problems. One case in particular, of treating a farmer with an infected wound, was reported as a great triumph.

Arabic lessons with the local schoolmaster were another point of contact with the local community which Myrtle relished.

While in Egypt, Myrtle was enamoured of the attentions of a local police officer, who subsequently invited her to visit his family home. The visit, when it came, was properly chaperoned by her uncle, but was recalled as a disaster. Myrtle cryptically admitted, “It would never have worked”. Thereafter she seemed quite happy to remain single.

Myrtle and Amice entertained many distinguished Egyptologists at their home in Egypt, as well as a number of touring royals.

Myrtle’s recordings of her life in Egypt are preserved in detail in her frequent letters to her parents, now in safekeeping at the Griffith Institute in Oxford.

Four folio volumes of the expedition’s work were published after the completion of the project. These made a notable contribution to the field of Egyptology and Myrtle became known amongst Egyptologists as one of the finest exponents of the art of epigraphy, the study of inscriptions.

The obsession with Egypt did not end with the Victorians. The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 provoked a whole new generation of Egyptomania.