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Whose Pharaohs?

Whose Pharaohs?: Archaeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I

Donald Malcolm Reid
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    Whose Pharaohs?
    Book Description:

    Egypt's rich and celebrated ancient past has served many causes throughout history--in both Egypt and the West. Concentrating on the era from Napoleon's conquest and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone to the outbreak of World War I, this book examines the evolution of Egyptian archaeology in the context of Western imperialism and nascent Egyptian nationalism. Traditionally, histories of Egyptian archaeology have celebrated Western discoverers such as Champollion, Mariette, Maspero, and Petrie, while slighting Rifaa al-Tahtawi, Ahmad Kamal, and other Egyptians. This exceptionally well-illustrated and well-researched book writes Egyptians into the history of archaeology and museums in their own country and shows how changing perceptions of the past helped shape ideas of modern national identity. Drawing from rich archival sources in Egypt, the United Kingdom, and France, and from little-known Arabic publications, Reid discusses previously neglected topics in both scholarly Egyptology and the popular "Egyptomania" displayed in world's fairs and Orientalist painting and photography. He also examines the link between archaeology and the rise of the modern tourist industry. This richly detailed narrative discusses not only Western and Egyptian perceptions of pharaonic history and archaeology but also perceptions of Egypt's Greco-Roman, Coptic, and Islamic eras. Throughout this book, Reid demonstrates how the emergence of archaeology affected the interests and self-perceptions of modern Egyptians. In addition to uncovering a wealth of significant new material on the history of archaeology and museums in Egypt, Reid provides a fascinating window on questions of cultural heritage--how it is perceived, constructed, claimed, and contested.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93079-7
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Note on Transliteration, Translation, and Dates
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    This book examines the evolving uses that Egyptians—mostly nationalists—and Europeans—mostly imperialists—made of various eras of the long Egyptian past between Bonaparte’s conquest in 1798 and the outbreak of World War I. European archaeology in Egypt began in earnest during the French expedition. French soldiers uncovered the Rosetta Stone by accident in 1799, and twenty-three years later Jean-François Champollion’s decipherment of its hieroglyphic text opened the door to modern Egyptology. In the half-century between 1858 and 1908, Europeans played key roles in the founding of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and four historical museums—the Egyptian Museum (for...


    • CHAPTER 1 Rediscovering Ancient Egypt: Champollion and al-Tahtawi
      (pp. 21-63)

      Westerners may find it strange that the title of this chapter juxtaposes the French genius who deciphered hieroglyphics and the less-renowned Egyptian scholar Rifaa al-Tahtawi. What the two had in common was that each revolutionized his audience’s understanding of ancient Egypt by putting back into circulation knowledge derived from the longsilent hieroglyphs. Champollion wrote in French for Westerners, al-Tahtawi in Arabic for Egyptians. Champollion opened the door to a lost world. Al-Tahtawi, although unable to read hieroglyphics himself, was the first to urge his countrymen to look inside the doorway. This chapter reviews what Westerners and Muslims thought they knew...

    • CHAPTER 2 From Explorer to Cook’s Tourist
      (pp. 64-92)

      At the turn of the twentieth century, an Egyptian in Muhammad al-Muwaylihi’s fictionalPeriod of Timecomments on Europeans encountered in a Cairo nightclub:

      They’re tourists from Western countries. . . . They’re used to civilized living and regard Oriental people with utter contempt. . . . They posture and show off, and keep bringing in innovations. Their activities are evil and their knowledge is pernicious. They’re the people who rob others of their wages. . . .

      When they travel to the East, they can be divided into two categories. The first consists of the leisure classes with modern...

    • CHAPTER 3 Egyptology under Ismail: Mariette, al-Tahtawi, and Brugsch, 1850–1882
      (pp. 93-136)

      Less than two years after writing these lines, al-Tahtawi had the satisfaction of seeing a school opened in Cairo to teach Egyptians how to read ancient Egyptian. The distinguished German Egyptologist Heinrich Brugsch became its director. Mariette’s hostility was a major factor in forcing the school to close five years later, but not before it had started Ahmad Kamal and one or two others of the younger generation down the road to Egyptology.

      During these same years under Said and Ismail, Mariette was setting up the Antiquities Service and Egyptian Museum. The usual celebration of him as the founder of...


    • CHAPTER 4 Cromer and the Classics: Ideological Uses of the Greco-Roman Past
      (pp. 139-171)

      This book opens with Bonaparte seizing Egypt in self-conscious emulation of Alexander and Caesar, and it closes with Lord Cromer in retirement, musing about his rule in Egypt compared with that of the proconsuls of Rome. In between, Consul Henry Salt divided his leisure time between Greek manuscripts and Egyptian antiquities, Flaubert read theOdysseyin Greek while floating down the Nile, and British officials fresh from Oxford and Cambridge stepped ashore reciting Herodotus.¹ Europeans founded the Greco-Roman Museum and the Archaeological Society of Alexandria in 1892 and brought the Second International Congress of Classical Archaeology to Cairo in 1909....

    • CHAPTER 5 Egyptology in the Age of Maspero and Ahmad Kamal
      (pp. 172-212)

      Forty-two years before this conversation, the death of Mariette in January 1881 and the accession of the more flexible Maspero had given Kamal a chance for a toehold in Egyptology. This generational change in the early 1880s was unusually sharp, as shown in table 3. Maspero remarked that with Mariette gone, Chabas was now the “last living [French Egyptologist] of our heroic age.”¹ Chabas died within the year; Lepsius followed in Germany in 1884, and Birch in Britain in 1885.

      In addition to Maspero and Kamal, the new generation included Flinders Petrie, who began work at the pyramids of Giza...

    • CHAPTER 6 Islamic Art, Archaeology, and Orientalism: The Comité and Ali Bahgat
      (pp. 213-257)

      Writing in 1880 on the eve of both the founding of the Comité de conservation des monuments de l’art arabe and the British occupation, French journalist Gabriel Charmes voiced views that seem tailor-made for Edward Said. Charmes extolled “Arab” art while attributing serious flaws to the race he assumed had produced it, lambasted the Turkish “race” for wretched taste, and attacked the reigning “Turkish” Muhammad Ali dynasty for neglecting historic preservation.¹ Only Western control could save the day. For Charmes, Orientalism, imperialism, and historic preservation all marched hand in hand.

      This chapter’s study of the European-Egyptian encounter in the Comité...

    • CHAPTER 7 Modern Sons of the Pharaohs? Marcus Simaika and the Coptic Past
      (pp. 258-286)

      Marcus Simaika (1864–1944) recounted that one day in the winter of 1908, he called on Patriarch Cyril (Anba Kirullus) V and found him supervising while a silversmith weighed out old silver gospel covers and church vessels to be melted down for reworking. They bore fourteenth and fifteenth-century inscriptions in Coptic and Arabic. Simaika, then vice president of the Coptic Community Council, offered to raise the £E180 market value of the bullion if these objects would be saved in a storeroom as a start toward a museum. The patriarch agreed, and the Coptic Museum was born.¹

      This transformation of worn-out...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 287-298)

    In the journey from 1798 to 1914,Whose Pharaohs?has interwoven the history of Egyptian archaeology as usually written in the West with that of modern Egyptians’ involvement in the subject. It has set the history of archaeology and museums in the broader contexts of Western imperial and Egyptian national history and brought together the often disparate histories of four archaeological disciplines. This book has wrestled with the tension between ideological commitment to imperialism and nationalism on the one hand and ideals of universal, objective knowledge on the other. Taking into account both scholarly and popular interest in antiquities in...

  11. Appendix: Supplementary Tables
    (pp. 299-308)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 309-364)
  13. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 365-384)
  14. Index
    (pp. 385-409)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 410-410)