Arthur Weigall was born in the year in which his father, Arthur Archibald Denne Weigall, an army officer, died on the North West Frontier. As a young widow, his mother, the former Alice Henrietta Cowen, turned missionary in the inner-city slums of late-Victorian England. So Arthur Weigall went from an unconventional home life in Salford to Wellington College, a school with strong establishment and military connections. He started work as an apprentice clerk in the City of London, but a youthful fascination with genealogy led him to the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and so into Egyptology. A mysterious patroness encouraged him to apply for New College, Oxford. This was a mistake (Egyptology was not yet studied at Oxford) so he went on to Leipzig, and on his return to England found work with Flinders Petrie, first at University College London and then at Abydos in Egypt.