Contesting Antiquity in EgyptArchaeologies, Museums, and the Struggle for Identities from World War I to Nasser

Contesting Antiquity in EgyptArchaeologies, Museums, and the Struggle for Identities from World War I to Nasser

Donald Malcolm Reid

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9789774166891

Publisher: American University in Cairo Press

Abstract

The sensational discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun's tomb, close on the heels of Britain's declaration of Egyptian independence, accelerated the growth in Egypt of both Egyptology as a formal discipline and of 'pharaonism'—popular interest in ancient Egypt—as an inspiration in the national struggle for full independence. Emphasizing the three decades from 1922 until Nasser's revolution in 1952, this follow-up to Whose Pharaohs? looks at the ways in which Egypt developed its own archaeologies—ancient Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Coptic, and Islamic. Each of these four archaeologies had given birth to, and grown up around, a major antiquities museum in Egypt. Later, Cairo, Alexandria, and Ain Shams universities also joined in shaping these disciplines. The closely-related history of tourism—including Thomas Cook & Son, Nile steamers, and the famous Shepheard's Hotel—also receives careful attention. For Egyptians, developing their own expertise in fields dominated by the French, Germans, and British was often also an expression of nationalism. Egyptians who valued archaeology also had to defend it against the minority of their compatriots for whom pharaonic antiquity represented only alien and idolatrous darkness before the dawning of Islam. In 1952, Nasser's revolution put an end to ninety-four years of French direction of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, and four years later the Suez War rang down the curtain on British colonialism in Egypt.