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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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Copts and Archaeology

Copts and Archaeology

Sons of Saint Mark / Sons of the Pharaohs

(p.197) 7 Copts and Archaeology
Contesting Antiquity in Egypt

Donald Malcolm Reid

American University in Cairo Press

Murqus Simaika's career, the Coptic Museum he founded in 1908, Mirrit Boutros Ghali's Society of Coptic Archeology (1934), and the perception that Copts were “sons of the pharaohs” provide main narrative threads for this chapter. In the late nineteenth century, Simaika and other Coptic Christian lay reformers, partly inspired by British and American Protestant missionaries, used the Coptic Community Council and the press to challenge clerical control of Coptic endowments, schools, and personal status law. Simaika's museum and—two generations later—Mirrit Boutros Ghali's Coptic Archeological Society highlighted Egypt's leading role in the early centuries of Christianity. Modern Coptic popes, priests, and monks generally trailed Coptic laymen in appreciating either Coptic or pharaonic antiquities. Shortly after Simaika's death in 1944, the acquisition of the Nag Hammadi codices drew international attention to the Coptic Museum. Coptic journalist Salama Musa, on the other hand, emphasized pharaonic and Egyptian national rather than Coptic communal heritage. Coptic scriptures and liturgy, had preserved the latest form of the ancient Egyptian language, and Cairo's school of Egyptology long turned out proportionately more Coptic than Muslim Egyptologists.

Keywords:   Simaika, Salama Musa, Copts, Pharaonic, Mirrit Boutros Ghali, Coptic Museum, Missionaries, Christian, Coptic Archeological Society, Coptic Community Council

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