This student-friendly introduction to the archaeology of ancientEgypt guides readers from the Paleolithic to the Greco-Romanperiods, and has now been updated to include recent discoveries andnew illustrations. * Superbly illustrated with photographs, maps, and siteplans, with additional illustrations in this new edition * Organized into 11 chapters, covering: thehistory of Egyptology and Egyptian archaeology; prehistoric andpharaonic chronology and the ancient Egyptian language; geography,resources, and environment; and seven chapters organizedchronologically and devoted to specific archaeological sites andevidence * Includes sections on salient topics such as theconstructing the Great Pyramid at Giza and the process ofmummification
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List of Plates
List of Figures
List of Maps
Chapter 1: Egyptian Archaeology
1.1 Introduction: Ancient Egyptian Civilization and Its Prehistoric Predecessors
1.2 Egyptian Archaeology
1.4 History of Egyptology and Egyptian Archaeology
1.5 Archaeological Methods
1.6 Archaeological Theory
1.7 Ancient Egypt and Egyptian Archaeologists in Fiction and Films
Chapter 2: Hieroglyphs, Language, and Pharaonic Chronology
2.1 Language of the Ancient Egyptians
2.2 Origins and Development of Egyptian Writing
2.3 Scripts and Media of Writing
2.4 Signs, Structure, and Grammar
2.5 Literacy in Ancient Egypt
2.6 Textual Studies
2.7 Use of Texts in Egyptian Archaeology
2.8 Historical Outline of Pharaonic Egypt
2.9 The Egyptian Civil Calendar, King Lists, and Calculation of Pharaonic Chronology
Chapter 3: The Environmental Background to Pharaonic Civilization
3.1 Geography: Terms and Place Names
3.2 Environmental Setting
3.3 Environmental and Other Problems for Archaeology in Egypt
3.4 The Seasons and the Agricultural System
3.5 The Ancient Egyptian Diet
3.6 Other Useful Animals and Plants
3.7 Building Materials
3.8 Other Resources: Clays, Stones, Minerals
3.9 Imported Materials
Chapter 4: Egyptian Prehistory
4.1 Paleolithic Cultures in Egypt
4.2 Lower Paleolithic
4.3 Middle Paleolithic
4.4 Upper Paleolithic
4.5 Late Paleolithic
4.6 Epipaleolithic (Final Paleolithic)
4.7 Saharan Neolithic
4.8 Neolithic in the Nile Valley: Faiyum A and Lower Egypt
4.9 Neolithic in the Nile Valley: Middle and Upper Egypt
Chapter 5: The Rise of Complex Society and Early Civilization
5.1 The Predynastic Period: Egypt in the Fourth Millennium
5.2 Lower Egypt: Predynastic Culture
5.3 Upper Egypt: Naqada Culture
5.4 Lower Nubia: A-Group Culture
5.5 State Formation and Unification
The Early Dynastic State
5.6 Organization and Institutions of the Early Dynastic State
5.7 Early Writing and Formal Art
5.8 The Expanding State
5.9 Who Were the Ancient Egyptians? Physical Anthropology
Chapter 6: The Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period
6.1 The Old Kingdom: Overview
The Early Old Kingdom
6.2 The 3rd Dynasty: Djoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara
6.3 The 4th Dynasty’s First King, Sneferu, and His Three Pyramids
6.4 Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza
6.5 The Great Sphinx and Khafra’s Pyramid Complex
6.6 Menkaura’s Giza Pyramid and Its Remarkable Valley Temple Finds
6.7 Giza Pyramid Towns
6.8 Giza Mastabas, Queen Hetepheres’s Hidden “Tomb,” and the Workmen’s Cemetery
The Later Old Kingdom
6.9 Sun Temples of the 5th Dynasty
6.10 Later Old Kingdom Pyramids and the Pyramid Texts
6.11 An Expanding Bureaucracy: Private Tombs in the 5th and 6th Dynasties
6.12 Egypt Abroad
The First Intermediate Period
6.13 The End of the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period: Causes of State Collapse
Chapter 7: The Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period
The Middle Kingdom
7.1 The Middle Kingdom: Overview
7.2 Pre-Unification 11th Dynasty:
Tombs at Thebes
7.3 Mentuhotep II’s Complex at Deir el-Bahri
7.4 Model Workers and the Deir el-Bahri Tomb of Meketra
7.5 12th-Dynasty Temples
7.6 12th- and 13th-Dynasty Pyramids
7.7 Towns and Domestic Architecture: Kahun and South Abydos
7.8 Nomarchs in Middle Egypt: The Beni Hasan Tombs
7.9 Mining in the Sinai and a Galena Mine in the Eastern Desert
7.10 Egyptian Forts in Nubia and Indigenous Peoples There
The Second Intermediate Period
7.11 The Second Intermediate Period: The Hyksos Kingdom in the North
7.12 The Kerma Kingdom in Upper Nubia
7.13 The Theban State during the Second Intermediate Period
Chapter 8: The New Kingdom
8.1 The New Kingdom: Overview
The Early New Kingdom
8.2 Early New Kingdom Architecture: Ahmose’s Abydos Pyramid Complex, the Thutmosid Palace and Harbor at Tell el-Daba, and the Theban Mortuary Temples of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III
8.3 Amenhotep III’s Malkata Palace
8.4 Tell el-Amarna and the Amarna Period
8.5 The Amarna Aftermath and Tutankhamen’s Tomb
New Kingdom Temples
8.6 Restoration of the Traditional Gods: Sety I’s Abydos Temple
8.7 The Temples of Karnak and Luxor in the New Kingdom
8.8 Ramessid Mortuary Temples
Royal and Elite Tombs
8.9 Royal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens
8.10 Elite Tombs at Thebes and Saqqara
State Towns and Settlements
8.11 The Workmen’s Village and Tombs at Deir el-Medina
8.12 Nubian Temple Towns
Chapter 9: The Third Intermediate Period and Late Period
9.1 The Third Intermediate Period: Overview
9.2 The Late Period: Overview
9.3 Tanis: A New City with Royal Tombs
9.4 Napata/Gebel Barkal and Sanam
9.5 el-Kurru and Nuri: The Kushite Royal Tombs
9.6 Saqqara: The Serapeum and Animal Cults
9.7 Some High-Status Tombs of the Third Intermediate Period and Late Period
9.8 Tell el-Maskhuta and Tell el-Herr
Chapter 10: The Greco-Roman Period
10.1 The Ptolemaic Period: Overview
10.2 The Roman Period: Overview
10.4 Greco-Roman Settlements in the Faiyum
10.5 Two Greco-Roman Temple Complexes in Upper Egypt: Dendera and Philae
Sites Outside the Nile Valley
10.6 The Western Desert: Bahariya and Dakhla Oases
10.7 The Eastern Desert: Roman Ports, Forts, Roads, and Quarrying Sites
10.8 Qasr Ibrim
10.9 Meroe: The Kushite Capital and Royal Cemeteries
Chapter 11: The Study of Ancient Egypt
Glossary of Terms
Appendix 1: Additional Readings in French, German, and Italian
Appendix 2: Websites
Websites for archaeological sites/projects discussed in this book
Other useful websites
Chapter Summaries and Discussion Questions
End User License Agreement
Figure 1.1 The Rosetta Stone, 196
, in hieroglyphic and demotic scripts with a Greek translation at the bottom. Granodiorite, 118 × 77 × 30 cm. EA 24 London, British Museum.
Figure 1.2 Set for the opera,
The Magic Flute
, Act I, scene 15, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Stage design by Karl Friedrich Schinkel for the 1816 production at the Berlin Opera. Aquatint by C. F. Thiele after K. F. Schinkel.
Figure 1.3 Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823). Engraving.
Figure 1.4 British archaeologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853–1942) with pottery he excavated in southern Palestine, exhibited at University College London ca. 1930.
Figure 1.5 Quickbird and WorldView-1 satellite image of Tanis, Egypt, processed using band combinations, high pass filtering and additional techniques.
Figure 1.6 Wheeler excavation squares at a site.
Figure 1.7 Tell el-Balamun, magnetic map of the temple enclosure.
Figure 1.8 Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra (VII) with Claude Rains as Julius Caesar, in the 1945 film of the George Bernard Shaw play
Caesar and Cleopatra
Figure 2.1 Stages of the Egyptian language.
Figure 2.2 Fragmentary papyrus in hieratic about the Battle of Qadesh, fought by Rameses II in the 19th Dynasty (E. 4892).
Figure 2.3 Limestone ostracon, with Coptic inscriptions on both sides, addressed to Psan, probably the disciple of Epiphanius, and naming Pesentius of Coptos/Qift.
Figure 2.4 Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832). Painting from 1831 by Leon Cogniet, INV. 3294 Paris, Musée du Louvre.
Figure 2.5 Sety I’s king list from his Abydos temple.
Map 3.1 Egypt, Nubia, Sinai, and oases in the Western Desert.
Map 3.2a Nomes of Upper Egypt.
Map 3.2b Nomes of Lower Egypt.
Map 3.3 Northeast Africa.
Figure 3.1 Wooden model of a bakery/brewery, from the 12th-Dynasty tomb of Meketra, Deir el-Bahri.
Figure 3.2 Fishing scene (from a papyrus boat), from the 6th-Dynasty tomb of Mereruka, Saqqara.
Map 3.4 Major stone and mineral resources in Egypt, Nubia, Sinai, and the Eastern and Western Deserts.
Figure 4.1 Handax.
Map 4.1 Paleolithic sites in Egypt, Nubia, and the Western Desert.
Figure 4.2 Steps in the making of a Levallois flake.
Figure 4.3 Middle Paleolithic flake tools.
Figure 4.4 Late Predynastic ripple-flaked knife produced by pressure flaking.
Figure 4.5 Figures of wild cattle at the Late Paleolithic rock art site of Qurta I, locality 1.
Map 4.2 Neolithic sites in Egypt.
Figure 4.6 Late Neolithic stone alignment at Nabta Playa.
Map 5.1 Predynastic sites in Egypt.
Figure 5.1 Subterranean house structure at Ma’adi.
Figure 5.2 Sequence Dating chart showing Petrie’s Predynastic pottery classes.
Figure 5.3 Plan of the Naqada cemeteries excavated by W. M. Flinders Petrie.
Figure 5.4 Wall scene from Tomb 100, Hierakonpolis.
Figure 5.5 Egypt: Predynastic (Naqada culture) burial from Naga el-Deir. Gifts of the Harvard University–Museum of Fine Arts Egyptian Expedition, 1921; the Egyptian Research Account, 1895; and the Egypt Exploration Fund and Chicago Woman’s Club, 1899 OIM 11488 (body). Used by permission of The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago.
Map 5.2 A-Group sites in Nubia.
Map 5.3 Hypothetical map of the “Proto-states” of Hierakonpolis, Naqada, and Abydos.
Figure 5.6 Narmer Palette, reverse and obverse.
Figure 5.7 Tags from Tomb U-j, Abydos.
Map 5.4 Early Dynastic sites in Egypt and Palestine.
Figure 5.8 Plan of the Early Dynastic Royal Cemetery at Abydos.
Figure 5.9 1st-Dynasty limestone stela of King Djet with his name framed by the royal
and surmounted by the Horus falcon, from his tomb at Abydos.
Figure 5.10 Plan of the three funerary enclosures from A
a’s reign, Abydos.
Figure 5.11 Section of the 1st-Dynasty Tomb 3357 at North Saqqara.
Figure 5.12 Carved disk from Hemaka’s tomb, North Saqqara.
Figure 5.13 Location of the “Main Deposit,” Hierakonpolis.
Figure 6.1 Cartouche of Khufu.
Map 6.1 Sites in Egypt, Nubia, and the Sinai during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period.
Figure 6.2 Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex, Saqqara.
Figure 6.3 Relief of Djoser running the
-festival race, from the so-called “South Tomb” at his Step Pyramid complex, Saqqara.
Figure 6.4 Aerial photo of the Step Pyramid complex and three unfinished rectangular pyramid complexes at Saqqara, from old RAF aerial photographs taken in 1947.
Figure 6.5 Cross-section plan of Sneferu’s Maidum pyramid.
Map 6.2 Plan of the three Giza pyramid complexes and nearby tombs.
Figure 6.6 Plan of Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza.
Figure 6.7 Disassembled boat, which was investigated in 1987 and is still in a boat pit next to Khufu’s Great Pyramid, Giza.
Figure 6.8 Khafra statue from the valley temple of his pyramid complex at Giza.
Figure 6.9 Plan of Shepseskaf’s tomb at Zawiyet el-Aryan.
Figure 6.10 Plan of the funerary cult town of Queen Khentkawes, Giza.
Figure 6.11 4th-Dynasty pyramid town at Giza, excavated by Mark Lehner.
Figure 6.12 “Reserve head” from a mastaba tomb to the west of Khufu’s Giza pyramid.
Figure 6.13 Restored furniture found in the Giza tomb or ritual deposit of Queen Hetepheres I, the chief queen of Sneferu and mother of Khufu.
Figure 6.14 Plan of Nyussera’s sun temple complex at Abu Ghurob.
Figure 6.15 Plan of Pepy II’s pyramid complex at Saqqara.
Figure 6.16 Painted relief with scenes of boat construction from the 5th-Dynasty tomb of Ti, Saqqara.
Figure 6.17 Relief scene of hunting in the desert, from the 6th-Dynasty tomb of Mereruka, Saqqara.
Figure 6.18 Funerary stela of a priestess of Hathor, Setnet-Inheret, dating to the First Intermediate Period, from Naga el-Deir.
Map 7.1 Sites in Egypt, Sinai, and the Eastern Desert during the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period.
Figure 7.1 Plan of Mentuhotep II’s tomb complex at Deir el-Bahri.
Figure 7.2 View into the small chamber of Meketra’s 12th-Dynasty tomb at Deir el-Bahri where the wooden models were found.
Figure 7.3 Plans of the Montu temple at Medamud, dating from the Old Kingdom to the Greco-Roman Period.
Figure 7.4 Plan of the rock-cut tomb of Senusret III at Abydos.
Figure 7.5 Plan of Senusret I’s pyramid at Lisht.
Figure 7.6 Planks excavated at the Lisht pyramid of Senusret I, reconstructed into a cross-section of a freight boat.
Figure 7.7 Plan of Amenemhat III’s pyramid at Dahshur.
Figure 7.8 Plan of the pyramid town of Kahun.
Figure 7.9 Descriptive scheme of images painted on a birth brick from South Abydos, Building A.
Figure 7.10 Scene of moving a large statue from the tomb of Djehuty-hotep, Deir el-Bersha.
Map 7.2 Sites in Upper and Lower Nubia during the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period.
Figure 7.11 Reconstruction of the 12th-Dynasty fort of Buhen, generated from a 3-D computer model originally created in 1993 by Bill Riseman and updated by the Institute for the Visualization of History.
Figure 7.12 Plan of the site of Tell el-Dab’a, dating to the 12th–13th Dynasties and later the 15th-Dynasty Hyksos capital of Avaris.
Figure 7.13 Plan of the royal tomb K X and the funerary temple K XI excavated by George Reisner at Kerma.
Figure 7.14 12th-Dynasty statue of Lady Sennuwy found in a royal burial (K III) at Kerma by George Reisner.
Figure 7.15 Plan of the central city of Kerma, as revealed by excavations completed by Charles Bonnet in 1994. (1) the Lower Deffufa, (2) its temple complex, (3) the round hall, (4) the later palace, (5) its associated warehouse, (6) a group of small shrines, (7) residential areas, (8) exposed parts of the defensive wall, and (9) deep defensive ditches.
Figure 7.16 View of the Western Deffufa temple at Kerma.
Figure 7.17 Pan-Grave excavated at Abydos. Grave goods: (1) large pink-ware jar, (2) travertine jar, (3) hard drab clay jar, (4) Kerma Ware spouted jar, (5–14) Kerma Ware bowls, (15) travertine cosmetic jar, and (16) 19 spherical blue faïence beads.
Map 8.1 Major New Kingdom sites in Egypt.
Map 8.2 Kingdoms and city-states in southwest Asia during the Late Bronze Age (New Kingdom).
Figure 8.1 The Colossi of Memnon.
Figure 8.2 Plan of Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri.
Map 8.3 Map of New Kingdom sites in the region of western Thebes.
Figure 8.3 Plan of Amenhotep III’s Malkata palace complex.
Figure 8.4 Plan of the city of Akhetaten (the site of Tell el-Amarna), including the eastern tombs.
Figure 8.5 Plan of the central city of Akhetaten.
Figure 8.6 Fragmented relief of Akhenaten with Nefertiti on his lap holding two princesses.
Figure 8.7 Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in Tutankhamen’s tomb.
Figure 8.8 View of the antechamber of Tutankhamen’s tomb, taken in 1922.
Figure 8.9 Plan of Tutankhamen’s tomb (KV 62), overlain by part of the tomb of Rameses VI (KV 9).
Figure 8.10 Plan of Tutankhamen’s burial chamber, with four shrines, sarcophagus, and coffins.
Figure 8.11 Abydos, plan of the Temple of Sety I/Rameses II.
Map 8.4 Map of Thebes, the “Estate of Amen,” in the New Kingdom, showing the main temples and processional routes.
Figure 8.12 Plan of the Temple of Luxor: (1) obelisk, (2) seated colossi of Rameses II, (3) pylon of Rameses II, (4) colonnade of Amenhotep III, (5) hypostyle hall, (6) first antechamber, (7) second antechamber, (8) “birth room,” (9) bark shrines of Amenhotep III and Alexander the Great, (10) transverse hall, and (11) sanctuary of Amenhotep III.
Figure 8.13 Plan of the Temple of Karnak.
Figure 8.14 Map/location of the (royal) mortuary temples of western Thebes.
Figure 8.15 The Ramesseum with fallen colossus of Rameses II.
Figure 8.16 Plan of the temple complex at Medinet Habu.
Figure 8.17(a) Theban Mapping Project plans of tombs in Valley of the Kings: Tomb of Thutmose III (KV 34, including KV 33).
Figure 8.18 Detail of a painting in the 18th-Dynasty Theban tomb of Rekhmira (TT 100) at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna showing Nubians bringing a giraffe and long-horned cattle as tribute. In the lower register Syrians bring horses, an elephant, and a bear.
Figure 8.19 Relief of a banquet scene from the 18th-Dynasty tomb of Ramose (TT 55).
Figure 8.20 Plan of several New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara, including those of Horemheb and Maya.
Figure 8.21 Plan of the village of Deir el-Medina.
Map 8.5 Sites and regions in Upper and Lower Nubia during the New Kingdom.
Figure 8.22 Plan of Rameses II’s rock-cut temple at Abu Simbel in Lower Nubia.
Map 9.1 Sites in Egypt, Sinai, and the Western Desert during the Third Intermediate Period and Late Period.
Figure 9.1 Taharqo head with a cap crown.
Figure 9.2 Plan of the temples and royal tombs at Tanis.
Figure 9.3 Plan of the royal necropolis at Tanis.
Figure 9.4 View of temples at the base of Gebel Barkal.
Figure 9.5 Plan of the royal cemetery at el-Kurru.
Map 9.2 Sites in Upper Nubia from the Third Intermediate Period onward.
Figure 9.6 Plan and cross-section of the pyramid of Taharqo at Nuri.
Figure 9.7 Plan of the Serapeum at Saqqara.
Figure 9.8 Granite sarcophagus of a sacred Apis bull, buried in the underground gallery of the Serapeum at Saqqara. Picture taken in 1997.
Figure 9.9 View of the gallery with mummified falcons, Saqqara.
Figure 9.10 Plan of the Sacred Animal Necropolis at North Saqqara.
Figure 9.11 Plan of the tomb of Harwa at el-Asasif: (1) quarry, (2) access ramp, (3) entrance portico, (4) vestibule, (5) courtyard, (6) first pillared hall, (7) second pillared hall, (8) Osiris’s shrine, (9) funerary apartment, (10) corridor, (11) tomb of Akhimenru.
Figure 9.12 Plan of the 26th-Dynasty tomb of Iufaa at Saqqara.
Map 10.1 Greco-Roman Period sites in Egypt, Libya, and the Eastern and Western Deserts.
Figure 10.1 Plan of the city of Alexandria.
Figure 10.2 Plan of the Greco-Roman temple of Hathor at Dendera.
Figure 10.3 The Ptolemaic zodiac relief from the ceiling of a small chapel in the Temple of Hathor, Dendera, now in the Louvre Museum, Paris.
Figure 10.4 View inside a 2nd-century elite house (Structure B/3/1, Room 7) showing the collapsed roof, at the Dakhla Oasis site of Ismant el-Kharab (ancient Kellis).
Figure 10.5 Plan of the fort at Abu Sha’ar as it appeared following the 1993 excavations.
Map 10.2 Sites in Nubia and Ethiopia/Eritrea contemporary with the Greco-Roman Period in Egypt.
Figure 10.6 Meroe, plan of the city and cemeteries.
Figure 10.7 Meroitic offering table in sandstone of Qenabelile, with the scene of a goddess on the left and Anubis on the right pouring water on behalf of the deceased. Around the outside is a Meroitic inscription, but only the names of the owner and his parentage can be read.
Figure 10.8 Reconstruction of several Meroe pyramids.
Figure 10.9 Plan of the Meroitic town at Domat el-Hamadab.
Table of Contents
For Rodolfo Fattovich and the late Wallace Sellers
With much gratitude
Kathryn A. Bard
This edition first published 2015© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Edition History: Blackwell Publishing Ltd (1e, 2008)
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bard, Kathryn A.An introduction to the archaeology of Ancient Egypt / Kathryn A. Bard. – Second edition. pages cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-470-67336-2 (pbk.)1. Egypt–Antiquities. 2. Egypt–Civilization–To 332 B.C. 3. Egypt–Civilization–332 B.C.-638 A.D. I. Title. DT60.B373 2014 932–dc23 2014030313
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Cover image: Wooden model of funerary boat, 2010–1961 BC. Middle Kingdom. © 2014. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Inv. N. 21.880. All rights reserved/Scala, Florence.
Agricultural scenes in the 19th-Dynasty tomb of Sennedjem at Deir el-Medina
Changing positions of the Nile River over the past 5,000 years in relation to pyramid sites of the Old and Middle Kingdoms
Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara
Statues of Rahotep and Nefert from their 4th-Dynasty tomb at Maidum
Khufu’s reconstructed cedar boat in the museum next to his pyramid at Giza
The Great Sphinx of Khafra at Giza
Pair statue of King Menkaura and Queen Khamerernebty II
Painted limestone bust of Prince Ankh-haf from his 4th-Dynasty tomb (G 7510) at Giza
Pyramid Texts in the pyramid of Unas at Saqqara
Rendered computer model of the G 2100 family mastaba complex (looking northwest) at Giza
Inscribed stela excavated at Mersa/Wadi Gawasis
View into Cave 5 at the Middle Kingdom port of Saww on the Red Sea
Statue of Mentuhotep II from his mortuary complex at Deir el-Bahri
Reconstructed shrine of Senusret I at Karnak
Gold headband of Princess Sit-Hathor-Iunet from her tomb at Lahun
Mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri
Punt relief from the second colonnade of Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri
Relief of Akhenaten and Nefertiti seated below the Aten sun-disk
Painted limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti
Decorated, gold-covered throne and footrest of Tutankhamen
Tutankhamen’s inlaid gold mask
Gold shrine of Tutankhamen’s canopic containers, from his tomb’s Treasury
The Hypostyle Hall of the Temple of Karnak
Painted scene from the 19th-Dynasty tomb of Queen Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens
Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Any, ca. 1275
Painted scene of purification rites from the 18th-Dynasty tomb of Sennefer
View of the 19th-Dynasty painted tomb of Sennedjem and his family at Deir el-Medina
Rameses II’s rock-cut temple at Abu Simbel in Lower Nubia
Gold necklace of King Psusennes I, from his tomb at Tanis
Royal statue excavated in Alexandria harbor
Rock-cut graves in the Gabbari district necropolis, Alexandria
mummy portrait of a woman, from the Faiyum
View of the Temple of Philae from the Nile
Kiosk of Trajan, Temple of Philae
A gilded, Roman Period mummy from the “Valley of the Golden Mummies” in Bahariya Oasis
The Rosetta Stone
Set for the opera,
The Magic Flute
Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823)
British archaeologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853–1942)
Quickbird and WorldView-1 satellite image of Tanis, Egypt
Wheeler excavation squares at a site
Tell el-Balamun, magnetic map of the temple enclosure
Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra (VII) with Claude Rains as Julius Caesar, in the 1945 film of the George Bernard Shaw play
Caesar and Cleopatra
Stages of the Egyptian language
Fragmentary papyrus in hieratic about the Battle of Qadesh, fought by Rameses II in the 19th Dynasty
Limestone ostracon, with Coptic inscriptions on both sides
Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832)
Sety I’s king list from his Abydos temple
Wooden model of a bakery/brewery, from the 12th-Dynasty tomb of Meketra, Deir el-Bahri
Fishing scene (from a papyrus boat), from the 6th-Dynasty tomb of Mereruka, Saqqara
Steps in the making of a Levallois flake
Middle Paleolithic flake tools
Late Predynastic ripple-flaked knife produced by pressure flaking
Figures of wild cattle at the Late Paleolothic rock art site of Qurta I, locality 1
Late Neolithic stone alignment at Nabta Playa
Subterranean house structure at Ma’adi
Sequence Dating chart showing Petrie’s Predynastic pottery classes
Plan of the Naqada cemeteries excavated by Petrie
Wall scene from Tomb 100, Hierakonpolis
Egypt: Predynastic (Naqada culture) burial from Naga el-Deir
Narmer Palette, reverse and obverse
Tags from Tomb U-j, Abydos
Plan of the Early Dynastic Royal Cemetery at Abydos
1st-Dynasty limestone stela of King Djet from his tomb at Abydos
Plan of the three funerary enclosures from A
a’s reign, Abydos
Section of the 1st-Dynasty Tomb 3357 at North Saqqara
Carved disk from Hemaka’s tomb, North Saqqara
Location of the “Main Deposit,” Hierakonpolis
Cartouche of Khufu
Djoser’s Step Pyramid complex, Saqqara
Relief of Djoser running the
-festival race, from the so-called “South Tomb” at his Step Pyramid complex, Saqqara
Aerial photo of the Step Pyramid complex and three unfinished rectangular pyramid complexes at Saqqara
Cross-section plan of Sneferu’s Maidum pyramid
Plan of Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza
Disassembled boat, investigated in 1987 and still in a boat pit next to Khufu’s Great Pyramid, Giza
Khafra statue from the valley temple of his pyramid complex at Giza
Plan of Shepseskaf’s tomb at Zawiyet el-Aryan
Plan of the funerary cult town of Queen Khentkawes, Giza
4th-Dynasty pyramid town at Giza
“Reserve head” from a mastaba tomb to the west of Khufu’s Giza pyramid
Restored furniture found in the Giza tomb or ritual deposit of Queen Hetepheres I
Plan of Nyussera’s sun temple complex at Abu Ghurob
Plan of Pepy II’s pyramid complex at Saqqara
Painted relief with scenes of boat construction from the 5th-Dynasty tomb of Ti, Saqqara
Relief scene of hunting in the desert, from the 6th-Dynasty tomb of Mereruka, Saqqara
Funerary stela of a priestess of Hathor, Setnet-Inheret, from Naga el-Deir
Plan of Mentuhotep II’s tomb complex at Deir el-Bahri
View into the small chamber of Meketra’s 12th-Dynasty tomb at Deir el-Bahri
Plans of the Montu temple at Medamud, dating from the Old Kingdom to the Greco-Roman Period
Plan of the rock-cut tomb of Senusret III at Abydos
Plan of Senusret I’s pyramid at Lisht
Planks excavated at the Lisht pyramid of Senusret I, reconstructed into a cross-section of a freight boat
Plan of Amenemhat III’s pyramid at Dahshur
Plan of the pyramid town of Kahun
Descriptive scheme of images painted on a birth brick from South Abydos, Building A
Scene of moving a large statue from the tomb of Djehuty-hotep, Deir el-Bersha
Reconstruction of the 12th-Dynasty fort of Buhen
Plan of the site of Tell el-Dab’a, dating to the 12th–13th Dynasties and later the 15th-Dynasty Hyksos capital of Avaris
Plan of the royal tomb K X and the funerary temple K XI excavated by George Reisner at Kerma
12th-Dynasty statue of Lady Sennuwy found in a royal burial (K III) at Kerma
Plan of the central city of Kerma
View of the Western Deffufa temple at Kerma
Pan-Grave excavated at Abydos
The Colossi of Memnon
Plan of Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri
Plan of Amenhotep III’s Malkata palace complex
Plan of the city of Akhetaten (the site of Tell el-Amarna)
Plan of the central city of Akhetaten
Fragmented relief of Akhenaten with Nefertiti on his lap holding two princesses
Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in Tutankhamen’s tomb
View of the antechamber of Tutankhamen’s tomb, taken in 1922
Plan of Tutankhamen’s tomb (KV 62), overlain by part of the tomb of Rameses VI (KV 9)
Plan of Tutankhamen’s burial chamber, with four shrines, sarcophagus, and coffins
Abydos, plan of the Temple of Sety I/Rameses II
Plan of the Temple of Luxor
Plan of the Temple of Karnak
Map/location of the (royal) mortuary temples of western Thebes
The Ramesseum with fallen colossus of Rameses II
Plan of the temple complex at Medinet Habu
Theban Mapping Project plans of tombs in Valley of the Kings
Detail of a painting in the 18th-Dynasty Theban tomb of Rekhmira (TT 100) at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna
Relief of a banquet scene from the 18th-Dynasty tomb of Ramose
Plan of several New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara, including those of Horemheb and Maya
Plan of the village of Deir el-Medina
Plan of Rameses II’s rock-cut temple at Abu Simbel in Lower Nubia
Taharqo head with a cap crown
Plan of the temples and royal tombs at Tanis
Plan of the royal necropolis at Tanis
View of temples at the base of Gebel Barkal
Plan of the royal cemetery at el-Kurru
Plan and cross-section of the pyramid of Taharqo at Nuri
Plan of the Serapeum at Saqqara
Granite sarcophagus of a sacred Apis bull, buried in the underground gallery of the Serapeum at Saqqara
View of the gallery with mummified falcons, Saqqara
Plan of the Sacred Animal Necropolis at North Saqqara
Plan of the tomb of Harwa at el-Asasif
Plan of the 26th-Dynasty tomb of Iufaa at Saqqara
Plan of the city of Alexandria
Plan of the Greco-Roman temple of Hathor at Dendera
The Ptolemaic zodiac relief from the ceiling of a small chapel in the Temple of Hathor, Dendera
View inside a 2nd-century elite house showing the collapsed roof, at the Dakhla Oasis site of Ismant el-Kharab (ancient Kellis)
Plan of the fort at Abu Sha’ar as it appeared following the 1993 excavations
Meroe, plan of the city and cemeteries
Meroitic offering table in sandstone of Qenabelile
Reconstruction of several Meroe pyramids
Plan of the Meroitic town at Domat el-Hamadab
Egypt, Nubia, Sinai, and oases in the Western Desert
Nomes of Upper Egypt
Nomes of Lower Egypt
Major stone and mineral resources in Egypt, Nubia, Sinai, and the Eastern and Western Deserts
Paleolithic sites in Egypt, Nubia, and the Western Desert
Neolithic sites in Egypt
Predynastic sites in Egypt
A-Group sites in Nubia
Hypothetical map of the “Proto-states” of Hierakonpolis, Naqada, and Abydos
Early Dynastic sites in Egypt and Palestine
Sites in Egypt, Nubia, and the Sinai during the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate Period
Plan of the three Giza pyramid complexes and nearby tombs
Sites in Egypt, Sinai, and the Eastern Desert during the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period
Sites in Upper and Lower Nubia during the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period
Major New Kingdom sites in Egypt
Kingdoms and city-states in southwest Asia during the Late Bronze Age (New Kingdom)
Map of New Kingdom sites in the region of western Thebes
Map of Thebes, the “Estate of Amen,” in the New Kingdom, showing the main temples and processional routes
Sites and regions in Upper and Lower Nubia during the New Kingdom
Sites in Egypt, Sinai, and the Western Desert during the Third Intermediate Period and Late Period
Sites in Upper Nubia from the Third Intermediate Period onward
Greco-Roman Period sites in Egypt, Libya, and the Eastern and Western Deserts
Sites in Nubia and Ethiopia/Eritrea contemporary with the Greco-Roman Period in Egypt
American Journal of Archaeology
Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte
Institut français d’archéologie orientale, Bibliothèque d’Étude
Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale, Caire
Bulletin de la Société française d’égyptologie
Cahier de recherches de l’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Égyptologie de Lille
Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt
Journal of Egyptian Archaeology
Journal of Field Archaeology
Journal of Near Eastern Studies
Journal of Roman Archaeology
Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities
Lexikon der Ägyptologie
, W. Helck and W. Westendorf (eds.), Wiesbaden
Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology
Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo
Mémoires de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale, Caire
Newsletter of the American Research Center in Egypt
Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde
Ancient Egyptian civilization spanned over 3,000 years, and its prehistoric past was considerably longer. It is impossible to describe all of the primary archaeological evidence in any single book, but I hope that this text provides a useful foundation for studying the archaeology and culture of this remarkable early civilization.
I have been teaching courses on Egyptian archaeology at Boston University since 1988, and realized a long time ago that there was no one text that covered everything I wanted to teach in a comprehensive survey. This book now provides such information. In the first three chapters I examine the history of the field of Egyptology and Egyptian archaeology; archaeological theory and methods applied to the study of ancient Egypt; the study of the written language and scripts; the application of dating techniques and chronology; and the environmental setting, resources, agriculture, and animal husbandry. In the following seven chapters, I then present the main periods of Egyptian prehistory and pharaonic history. The chapters are arranged according to these periods because developments in pharaonic culture need to be understood from a chronological perspective, but the chapters can also be used selectively. My intent has been to cover the basics: everything I wanted to know about ancient Egypt when I began my studies.
Since textual information is so important for an understanding of this ancient society, relevant texts are briefly discussed in association with the archaeological evidence. In some cases the archaeological evidence includes excavations from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as more recent investigations of the same sites. Important topics, such as the Neolithic, state formation and Egyptian kingship, the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs, mortuary beliefs, and mummification and the study of human remains, are highlighted in boxes throughout the book. Information in boxes also includes specific types of analyses, such as ceramic and lithic analyses, and discussion of some particularly important sites and discoveries.
This book is not only designed for broad survey courses on Egyptian archaeology, but it also provides useful background information and references for more advanced study. For classroom discussions, chapter summaries and questions are provided. Readers interested in archaeology and anthropology (especially early civilizations), ancient history and art history, ancient Near Eastern studies, and biblical and classical studies will also find this book of interest.
Archaeology needs to be understood through illustrations – of sites, buildings, artifacts, etc. – and this book is illustrated with plans, drawings, photographs, and color plates. A glossary of terms used is included, as well as an extensive bibliography of books and articles in English. Since so much work has been done in Egypt by non-English speaking archaeologists, an additional reading list of references in French, German, and Italian is also provided.
The idea of the first edition of this book began as notes for my course at Boston University, the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Much of the book was written while I was on sabbatical leave in 2002–2003, and I would like to thank the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University for approving this leave so that I could spend the year writing and doing research at the University of Toronto. While in Toronto, Edward Keall, then Head and Senior Curator of the Near Eastern and Asian Civilizations Department of the Royal Ontario Museum, provided assistance in using the museum libraries. The late Nicholas Millet, with whom I first studied Egyptian archaeology, very graciously assisted me in the Egyptian Department library of the ROM. Larry Pavlish and Roelf Beukens gave me a very informative tour of the Isotrace Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of Toronto and later provided information for this book on radiocarbon dating.
I am especially grateful to John Baines of the University of Oxford for all of his comments and assistance – and cheerful encouragement – which greatly helped to improve the manuscript of the first book. His encyclopedic knowledge of ancient Egypt and relevant references – and his readiness to provide not only information but also his prodigious insights – are much appreciated.
As the first book took shape, the late Bruce Trigger of McGill University provided support and encouragement – with which he had been so generous since he was on my PhD dissertation committee at the University of Toronto. I am grateful for the time and thoughtfulness that he put into reviewing the chapters of the first book – and his many helpful comments and suggestions.
Emily Moss of Harvard’s Tozzer Library was helpful with information about references in the book’s first edition. My Boston University colleague Chris Roosevelt cheerfully provided quick answers about terms in Roman archaeology. A long conversation with Jack Josephson in New York gave me helpful directions on what to focus on in the chapters on the Late and Greco-Roman periods. For questions on Nubian archaeology, Andrea Manzo of the University of Naples “l’Orientale” – my colleague of so many field seasons in Ethiopia and Egypt – was helpful with references and knowledgeable insights. The many discussions I have had in the field with Rodolfo Fattovich, co-director with me of excavations at Aksum, Ethiopia, and Mersa/Wadi Gawasis, Egypt, have enriched my knowledge of fieldwork methodology, while at the same time not losing sight of the broader cultural context.
At Blackwell Publishing, Jane Huber provided enthusiastic support from the inception of the first edition of this book – and ongoing facilitation of what turned out to be a much bigger book than I had anticipated. In the process, Jane not only impressed me with her great skill as an editor/manager, but she also became a good friend. I am also grateful to Donald Ryan of Pacific Lutheran University for the idea of including a glossary of terms.
For the book’s second edition with Wiley-Blackwell, editor Rosalie Robertson was very helpful and encouraging throughout the long process of revising the earlier book and updating it with recent archaeological data. I am greatly indebted to Joyce Marcus of the University of Michigan, who put so much time and effort into reviewing the revised chapters and making many helpful suggestions for improvement. At Boston University, graduate student Allison Riley also helped with the list of websites of archaeological projects.
The end result of the second edition of this book is of course my own responsibility. Although there may be gaps in the evidence discussed because of the book’s very broad scope, I hope that it will be useful and informative as an introduction to the impressive remains of ancient Egypt.
As a child, I was taken to the Egyptian collection in the Field Museum in Chicago, where I saw a small faience amulet of a cat and her two kittens that filled me with a sense of wonder. That is where this book really began 50+ years ago – and the wonder of ancient Egypt is still with me.
1.1 Introduction: Ancient Egyptian Civilization and Its Prehistoric Predecessors
1.2 Egyptian Archaeology
1.4 History of Egyptology and Egyptian Archaeology
1.5 Archaeological Methods
1.6 Archaeological Theory
1.7 Ancient Egypt and Egyptian Archaeologists in Fiction and Films
Ancient Egypt – the land of the pharaohs – is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Its monumental tombs and temples, decorated with reliefs and hieroglyphs, have been the source of awe and admiration for millennia. Art and crafts of great beauty, and well-preserved organic evidence (especially mummies) have added to ancient Egypt’s fascination. “How did they do it?” is a question often asked about the ancient Egyptians that has sometimes given rise to highly speculative and fantastical explanations. For example, it has been suggested that the Great Pyramid at Giza (built by Khufu in the 4th Dynasty), which was the largest structure in the world until the 19th century AD, could not have been built without the technological and mathematical knowledge of an earlier civilization – the fictitious lost continent of Atlantis. But there were no earlier civilizations anywhere in the world and such an explanation is based entirely on fanciful beliefs which do not credit the ancient Egyptians with the intelligence and ability to organize and carry out such a project.
A closer look at the archaeological evidence provides information about how the Egyptians built their monuments. At Khufu’s pyramid there is evidence of rectangular cuts in the bedrock used by ancient surveyors, and the remains of pyramid construction ramps have been identified to the south of the three kings’ pyramids at Giza. Evidence of ancient stone quarries at Giza has also been located. Graffiti naming gangs of workmen can still be seen on blocks used to build the pyramids, and are found in stress-relieving spaces above the burial chamber in the Great Pyramid.Tools for stone working have also been found on the site. Using systematic methodology, not fantasy, archaeologists who study ancient Egypt interpret archaeological evidence, providing a more rational, down to earth – and much more interesting – understanding of the past, including interpretations of “why they did it.” The truth is often much more interesting than wild speculation.
Ancient Egypt, with its unique monuments and works of art, has left very impressive remains. There is also a large corpus of preserved texts, which adds to our understanding of the cultural meanings of these works, and how this civilization functioned.
Ancient Egyptian civilization emerged between 3200 and 3000 BC, when a large region stretching along the lower Nile River and Delta was unified and then controlled by a centralized kingship (see 5.5). Its distinctive characteristics – the important institutions of kingship and state religion, monumental tombs and temples, the art which decorated these monuments, and hieroglyphic writing – emerged at this time and continued for over three thousand years, until Christianity became established throughout Egypt. Because of its great longevity, Egyptian civilization provides a unique opportunity to study the changes and developments of an early civilization over a very long span of time.
Civilization is a complex form of culture, the learned means by which human groups adapt and alter their physical and social environments. Before the Egypt of the pharaohs there were many earlier cultures, from the hunting and gathering societies of the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) to the Neolithic, when agriculture was introduced in the Nile Valley ca. 6000–5000 BC (see 4.8). During the Predynastic Period, from ca. 4000–3000 BC, when there is evidence of different cultures in Upper (southern) and Lower (northern) Egypt, social and economic changes were taking place that would lead to the emergence of Egyptian civilization (see 5.1). While this book focuses mainly on the archaeology of ancient Egyptian civilization – pharaonic Egypt – an overview of Egyptian prehistory is crucial for understanding the particular type of civilization that arose there.
Dynastic Egypt was the almost 3,000-year time span of ancient Egyptian civilization. Although we do not have a full listing in Egyptian of the long tradition of royal dynasties, we do have one based on Egyptian traditions that was compiled in Greek by an Egyptian priest of the 3rd century BC named Manetho. There are 31 dynasties of Egyptian kings, including foreign rulers, after which Egypt was ruled by the Ptolemies, kings and queens of Macedonian descent who controlled Egypt after Alexander the Great’s conquest (see 10.1). With the defeat of the last Ptolemaic queen, Cleopatra VII, and her lover, the Roman general Marc Antony, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.
Archaeology is the study of the material remains of past cultures, from stone tools to stone pyramids, within their excavated contexts. Unlike the hard sciences, such as physics or chemistry, there are no laws in archaeology. Whereas science is concerned with studying regularities that can be observed and tested through experiment, and then verified by repeating the experiment, archaeology has no such system of proof. An archaeological site (or part of it) can only be excavated once, so it is important to do this as carefully as possible, and then record, analyze, and publish all the excavated data, as well as observations made about the excavations. Archaeological evidence is always fragmentary, and archaeologists must analyze and interpret this fragmentary evidence in order to model or reconstruct the past, offering the most probable explanation of ancient cultures, their forms and behavior.
Archaeology studies the long prehistoric periods and cultures in Egypt and elsewhere. The prehistory of Egypt spans perhaps as many as one million years. Most of the material remains that prehistoric archaeologists study are stone tools and the waste from producing stone tools (see Chapter 4).
About the time from when there is evidence of early agriculture in Egypt, there is also evidence of pottery, and increasing numbers of potsherds are found at archaeological sites. Potsherds (broken pieces of pots) are important sources of information because pottery styles tend to change rapidly through time and are generally culture specific. Potsherds are useful for classifying late prehistoric as well as Dynastic sites by period and/or culture; sometimes imported, foreign pots are also identified at Egyptian sites.
With the emergence of pharaonic civilization came the invention of hieroglyphic writing (see 2.2), which becomes an increasingly important source of information for all scholars of ancient Egypt. Archaeologists excavating pharaonic sites not only have the evidence of potsherds and many different types of artifacts (including stone tools, which continued to be produced in pharaonic times), but also hieroglyphic inscriptions and graphic art integrated with well-preserved structures, especially tombs and associated mortuary monuments. Because archaeological evidence is fragmentary, archaeologists must rely on all forms of information, including texts and pictorial representations, and this is especially true for the study of pharaonic Egypt.
Egyptian archaeology is the study of both prehistoric cultures and pharaonic civilization in the Egyptian Nile Valley and Delta, as well as the surrounding deserts. To the south of the First Cataract (a natural barrier to transportation along the Nile) at modern-day Aswan, was the land of Nubia, which was periodically controlled by the Egyptians. Archaeological evidence of Egyptian activities is abundant there. The ancient Egyptians also left extensive archaeological and textual evidence in the Sinai Peninsula. Although this region was not a part of ancient Egypt, archaeological sites in the Sinai are also relevant to Egyptian archaeology. There is also important archaeological evidence in the oases of the Egyptian Western Desert, the mines and quarries of the Eastern Desert, and desert routes to these locations, as well as harbors along the Red Sea coast.
Given the extensive body of texts, the archaeology of ancient Egypt is an example of historical archaeology, with the written evidence providing the historical context of excavated finds. Textual evidence greatly expands a more specific meaning of ancient Egyptian finds, its history, forms of government, social organization, and the economy – as well as more elusive beliefs and ideas. In turn, interpretation of the archaeological evidence within its excavated context can reinforce the historical evidence from texts. Occasionally, archaeological evidence contradicts the validity of information conveyed in writing – illustrating the complexity of historical interpretations based on texts.
Archaeological fieldwork in Egypt has been conducted according to the research problems and priorities of particular expeditions. Present-day scholars of ancient Egypt come from a variety of disciplines, which frequently overlap in practice. These include philologists and Egyptologists, historians (of ancient Egypt, the ancient Near East, the Bible, and the classical world), art historians, as well as archaeologists. Historians are usually interested in reconstructing the history of use of the specific site(s) they are excavating, while art historians focus on recording architectural plans and decoration, works of art, and changes in style and design through time. For Egyptologists, an important focus of fieldwork is often epigraphic studies, and philologists study ancient texts. Archaeologists can be trained in one or more of these fields, or specifically trained in archaeology, including Near Eastern archaeology, classical archaeology (the archaeology of ancient Greece and Rome), anthropological archaeology, and archaeology as taught in departments of archaeology, which are mainly found in European universities. Archaeologists’ training and background strongly influence their focus and methods of investigation.
Whereas the methods of archaeology, both prehistoric and pharaonic, developed in the later 19th and 20th centuries – and continue to develop – Egyptology, the study of ancient Egypt, is an even older discipline. The systematic study of ancient Egypt is generally seen as beginning with the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt in 1798 (see Box 1-A). The great military tactician who crowned himself emperor of France (before he met his Waterloo), Napoleon Bonaparte was also a man of the Age of Enlightenment. In Cairo Napoleon founded the French Institute of Egypt, whose successor was re-established in the later 19th century as the Institut français, which continues to be an important center of archaeological and Egyptological studies in Egypt today. Soldiers of Napoleon uncovered the Rosetta Stone while building fortifications in the Delta, and, recognizing its significance as a possible aid to the decipherment of hieroglyphs, Napoleon had Parisian lithographers brought to Egypt to make copies of it. The Rosetta Stone was subsequently handed over to the British, who defeated Napoleon’s fleet in Egypt, and it now resides in the British Museum in London, but Jean-François Champollion, a French scholar who studied copies of the Rosetta Stone, made the decipherment of ancient Egyptian (see Box 2-B and Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1 The Rosetta Stone, 196 BC, in hieroglyphic and demotic scripts with a Greek translation at the bottom. Granodiorite, 118 × 77 × 30 cm. EA 24 London, British Museum.
After major victories in northern Italy in 1796, Napoleon Bonaparte had more grandiose plans. His army of 25,000 invaded Egypt in 1798, ostensibly to overthrow the oppressive provincial rule of the Ottomans, but his longer-range plans were to disrupt British control of the sea route to India and farther east, and build a canal through Suez (which was only accomplished seven decades later).
With Napoleon’s army in Egypt was a group of 165 savants (scholars and scientists), as well as engineers, cartographers, and artists, who were to study, record, and publish as much as possible about Egypt’s natural, ancient, and modern history and culture. They came well equipped, with boxes of scientific instruments and a library of books about Egypt. While some of the scholars stayed in Cairo at the newly founded Institute of Egypt, others accompanied the army up the Nile. Reaching Aswan a year after landing at Alexandria, they had by then recorded most of the major monuments they excavated along the way.
Although Napoleon managed to escape from the British naval blockade of Egypt, which began not long after the invasion, and returned to France, his Commission of Arts and Sciences remained in Egypt with the army. Eventually the British allowed the French scholars to leave Egypt with an enormous quantity of records and specimens. But the Rosetta Stone, found in the Delta early in the Egyptian campaign, was surrendered to the British.
The result of Napoleon’s scientific expedition in Egypt was much more successful than his military one. Twenty-four volumes of the Description de l’Égypte
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