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

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9789774166891

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774166891.001.0001

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Nationalizing Tutankhamun

Nationalizing Tutankhamun

(p.51) 2 Nationalizing Tutankhamun
Contesting Antiquity in Egypt

Donald Malcolm Reid

American University in Cairo Press

In November 1922, just months after Britain's unilateral declaration of Egypt's independence, the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb was caught up in a decolonization struggle between Egyptian nationalists and Western archaeological interests. Lord Carnarvon's sale of exclusive publication rights to the London Times provoked a storm of opposition in the Arabic, British, and American press. Clashing with the Egyptian Antiquities Service over visitors to the tomb, Howard Carter locked it up, refused to do further work, and sued the Egyptian government. Egypt's new independence, however, proved to have enough teeth to avoid the customary division of the finds between the government and the excavators: Tutankhamun's treasures were all retained in Cairo to become the glory of the Egyptian Museum. The discovery intensified pharaonism as a component of 1920s Egyptian nationalism as Saad Zaghlul, his Wafd Party, and others pushed for fuller independence. Ahmad Shawqi penned a celebrated ode on Tutankhamun. Although both Western and Egyptian “Tutmania” fell off considerably from the 1930s through the 1950s, it surged once more in the 1960s, after full independence enabled Egypt to lend out Tutankhamun objects for blockbuster exhibitions abroad.

Keywords:   Tutankhamun, Carter, Carnarvon, Ahmad Shawqi, Decolonization, Nationalism, Wafd, Zaghlul, Pharaonism, Antiquities Service

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