In 1822 two members of the University of Cambridge gave the university a set of coffins belonging to a man named Nespawershefyt.

The following year Giovanni Belzoni presented the university with the sarcophagus lid of Ramesses III which he had retrieved from the Valley of the Kings. The collection grew in importance towards the end of the 19th century and in the early years of the 20th century, benefitting from the work of Sir Flinders Petrie, the Egypt Exploration Fund and the British School of Archaeology in Egypt.

Among other notable benefactors, R G Gayer-Anderson (1943) and Sir Robert Greg (1954) deserve to be singled out, whose bequests to the Museum provided the Egyptian collection with some of its most significant artefacts.