Swan Funeral Home


Lanny Bell

April 30, 1941August 26, 2019

Lanny David Bell 30 April 1941- 26 August 2019

Anybody who knew Lanny Bell knows the passion he had for all-things Egypt, both ancient and modern! He immersed himself in the history and cultural traditions of Egypt and was at his best and happiest when living in or visiting this vibrant country. Lanny’s love for Egypt was evident in the energetic and enthusiastic way he introduced students and tourists to its ancient sites and modern culture. Lanny was born in April 1941 in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Gerald Eugene and Marjorie Ann (Carlson) Bell. He had a younger brother, Brian K. Bell (1942-2009). In high school, Lanny took a class in Latin and fell in love with ancient languages in general and later, Egyptian Hieroglyphics in particular. This early interest in ancient languages launched his life-long career in Egyptology.

Lanny earned a Bachelor of Arts in Egyptology from the University of Chicago in 1963 and a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1976. Lanny began teaching as a graduate student in 1965 and in 1967 began field work in Luxor with the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He was particularly proud of his work as Field Director for the University Museum Theban Tomb Project at Dra Abu el-Naga (1967-1977). In 1963, when Lanny entered graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, he met Martha Hope Rhoads. They married on 22 September 1968. Martha was also a scholar, having received a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History at Barnard College in New York City in 1963 and a Ph.D. in the Department of Classical Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. For more than half of their 21 years of married life, Lanny and Martha lived in Luxor, Egypt while Lanny served as Field Director of the University of Chicago’s Epigraphic Survey at Chicago House from 1977 to 1989. Founded in 1924 by James Henry Breasted, the Epigraphic Survey was committed to the preservation of Egypt’s monuments and cultural heritage through photographs, drawings, and now digital documentation and remains so today. Much of Lanny’s and Martha’s focus was on the Epigraphic Survey as well as revitalizing Chicago House as a place for scholars to conduct their work.

During their twelve-year tenure, Lanny and Martha made Chicago House a warm and inviting residence where scholars and visitors always felt welcome. In 1989 Lanny ‘retired’ to a professorship at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in the Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations department. There Lanny became a beloved teacher and nurturing mentor to his students. He taught numerous classes and served as a formal and informal advisor for many students writing dissertations. His enduring passion for Egypt was never more evident than in the way he enthusiastically presented material in class and made the history of ancient Egypt come alive. Not long after Martha had received her Ph.D. degree, and Lanny had settled into this teaching role in Chicago, Martha, and their good friend Gerald M. Quinn, were tragically killed in a car accident in 1991. Martha’s death was a devastating blow to Lanny, and one from which he never fully recovered.

Later, Lanny met Jill Baker at the University of Chicago and they married in 1994 (div. 2006). From there Lanny took (real) early retirement from the University of Chicago in 1996 and they moved to Old Saybrook, CT. Lanny soon began teaching at Brown University as a Visiting Researcher in Egyptology and Jill finished her Ph.D. at Brown University in the Center for Old World Archaeology in Art in 2003. While at Brown University Lanny continued to advise and mentor students, eager to pass-on his knowledge of ancient Egypt to the next generation of scholars. It was also during this time that Lanny became a beloved lecturer on tours to Egypt, especially those conducted by Archaeological Tours, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the Oriental Institute. Conducting back-to-back tours in Egypt afforded Lanny the chance to spend extended periods of time in Egypt to not only teaching people about the ancient and modern cultures but also to conduct research. As was Lanny’s way, he made numerous close friends in Egypt and reveled in those friendships. His ‘Egyptian family’ was precious to him.

The integrity of Lanny’s scholarship was impeccable. His research was thorough and original and he always gave credit where credit was due. He received several awards, including a National Merit Scholarship (1959-1963) and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (1963-1964). His main publications included “Aspects of the Cult of the Deified Tutankhamun” (1985); “Luxor Temple and the Cult of the Royal Ka” (1985); “The Epigraphic Survey: The Philosophy of Egyptian Epigraphy after Sixty Years’ Practical Experience” (1987); “The Epigraphic Survey and the Rescue of the Monuments of Ancient Egypt” (1990); “The Ancient Egyptian ‘Books of Breathing’, the Mormon ‘Book of Abraham’, and the Development of Egyptology in America” (2008); “A (Late Seventh Century) Collection of Egyptian Bronzes (at Ashkelon, Israel)”—co-author with Daphna Ben-Tor (2011); and “(Late Middle Kingdom) Clay Sealings from the Moat Deposit (at the MBIIA Gate of Ashkelon)” — co-author with Daphna Ben-Tor (2016). He was the president of the Chicago Society of the Archaeological Institute of America (1992-1996) and held numerous lectureships with the AIA. Some of these included Traveling Lecturer for the AIA, Kershaw Lecturer for the AIA, Martha Sharp Joukowsky Lecturer for the AIA, and the Helene J. Kantor Memorial Lecturer for the AIA. His lecture style was engaging and always captured the attention of the audience. No matter what the subject, he always made it come alive, which inspired many in the audience to learn more or go on one of his tours.

During the last years of his life, Lanny heroically battled Alzheimer’s Disease, but the disease finally overwhelmed him in recent months and ultimately took his life. Lanny will always be remembered for his sense of humor, quick wit, his puns, and his passion for Egypt.

The Brancoforte-Baker Family.

To honor Lanny and to help others manage and ultimately overcome this cruel disease, please make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Foundation in memory of Lanny Bell.

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, 24 September 2019, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Swan Funeral Home, 1224 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook, CT 06475. For further details, please contact Swan Funeral Home, (860) 669-2903.

Please email all condolences or memories you would like to share with the family to

A gathering celebrating Lanny's life will be held at 3921 Liberty Rd., Coopersburg, PA 18036 on September 29th from 1:00 PM on.


  • Memorial Service

    Tuesday, September 24, 2019

  • Celebration of Life

    Sunday, September 29, 2019


Lanny Bell


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