30 March - 5 April 2000
Issue No. 475
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Region International Economy Opinion Culture Special Focus Travel Living Sports Profile People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons
Monuments don't unearth themselvesCompiled by Jill Kamil
The field of Egyptology -- once nothing more than blind digging and an international game of "finders keepers" -- has travelled a bumpy road to become the respected and formal effort it is today; both scholarly in method and systematic in practice. Scores of scholars have fuelled an unflagging drive to unearth, preserve and document Egypt's ancient heritage, and eight of the most outstanding were honoured Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the eighth International Congress of Egyptology (ICE).
Those honoured at the ICE (two were recognised posthumously) included representatives from England, France, Italy, Poland, the United States and, of course, Egypt. They paint a picture of the diverse course Egyptology has travelled -- and still travels today. The awards were specially-designed silver mirrors with ebony handles, fashioned after a 12th-dynasty model. Biographical notes on those honoured follow:
The late Gamal Mukhtar devoted his life to promoting Egypt's cultural heritage and was one of the country's most prominent and passionate advocates. Born in Alexandria in 1918, Mukhtar was chairman of the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation (EAO) and served as first undersecretary of state from 1972 to 1977. Through his work as a diplomat, educator and public official, he guided national cultural policy and promoted Egypt's cultural legacy throughout the world.
Mukhtar successfully transformed the EAO from a local-level organisation to an international one and raised the professional standards of Egyptology in Egypt. In addition to promoting a deeper international understanding of Egypt and its monuments and art, Mukhtar recognised the problems of sand and wind, pollution, exhaust fumes from cars and buses, industrial development and tourists ("who smoke, eat, drink and walk on the stones") -- claiming that the latter problem was not with tourists, but with the authorities. He suggested that visits to important tombs such as those of Nefertari and Tutankhamun should be rigorously regulated and that the monuments should be closed for maintenance and repairs; he was critical of "new public attractions" like the Sound and Light performances, and frequently commented that the monument was more important than the spectacle.
The German Institute of Archaeology has played an active role in Egypt and Reiner Stadelmann, its director from 1989 to 1999 is one of its most respected scholars. In order to bridge the language gap between the German Institute and Egyptian colleagues, Stadelmann secured special funds to allow members of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and scholars from Egyptian universities and the Egyptian Museum to follow German language courses that would enable them to read German literature on Egyptology. Egyptian professors and members in the field are also regularly invited to Germany to meet with colleagues or lecture at different universities.
Among the many excavations carried out by the institute under Stadelmann's directorship, three stand out with particular clarity: Excavations on the old town at the southern tip of Elephantine Island, south of Aswan; the temple of Seti I at Qurna, on the Theban necropolis; and the pyramids of Sneferu at Dahshur.
The Polish Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology of Warsaw University has been doing excavations in Egypt for over 60 years and the late Kazimierz Michalowski was its prime mover. A graduate of the Lvov university, he continued his studies in classical archaeology in Berlin, Heidelberg, Paris and Rome, and when still a young man, he headed the first Polish archaeological mission to Egypt.
At the invitation of the Egyptian government, Michalowski carried out a detailed archaeological survey of Nubia in 1958 prior to the construction of the High Dam and his suggestions became important impulses for UNESCO to consider the fate of the Nubian monuments, especially the plan to save Abu Simbel. As a result of his involvement in Nubia, Michalowski, together with other scholars, established the Society for Nubian Studies and was elected its president.
An honorary award for William Kelly Simpson, scholar, curator, teacher and excavator comes as no surprise. He has long enjoyed international acclaim and respect as a prolific scholar with some 20 books and over 130 articles to his credit. There is, perhaps, no member of the lay public interested in ancient Egypt who has not read his work Ancient Egypt: An Anthology of Stories, Instructions, and Poetry. A leading collector of modern and contemporary art, he holds top-level positions at numerous institutions, including the International Association of Egyptologists, the American Research Centre in Egypt and the American University in Cairo.
Born in New York in 1928, Simpson first came to Egypt in 1954 where, in addition to touring museums and archaeological sites, he excavated at the so-called bent pyramid at Dahshur, under the directorship of Egypt's Ahmed Fakhry (of the Oases in the Western Desert fame), and at Mit Rahina, with the University of Pennsylvania. Recognising the need to publish the tremendous legacy of the Giza mastabas excavated by George A Reisner, Simpson reopened the Museum of Fine Arts' excavations at Giza in 1970 and, as of 1996, six volumes have been published in a series.
H S Smith, a Cambridge scholar who established himself as an expert in the Egyptian language, was appointed to the Egyptology department of University College London. He first visited Egypt in 1952 and excavated with Bryan Emery at the Nubian sites of Buhen and Kor in the 1950s and '60s. He then returned to Egypt in the mid-1960s to work with Emery at Saqqara, searching for the tomb of Imhotep. As an epigraphist and demoticist, he translated a great many of the thousands of texts from the Sacred Animal Necropolis.
Smith took on the responsibility of the site after Emery's death and from 1976 to 1979, he directed the survey of another Late Period/Ptolemaic complex at Saqqara, the huge but little-known temples of Boubastieion and Anoubieion. In 1980 he secured the Egypt Exploration Society's concession to work at Mit Rahina and worked there during its crucial early years, from 1981 to 1986. A man of extraordinary breadth and scope of interest and expertise, Harry Smith is revered by generations of students who studied under him or who have accompanied him in the field.
As a member of the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology (IFAO), Jean Leclant has supervised all the restoration and archaeological work carried out by French missions in Egypt and the Sudan since the 1940s. His earliest work was in the Karnak complex and in the early 1960s, he moved to Saqqara, where he became deeply involved in a study of the Pyramid Texts. His soon-to-be published book on the subject is eagerly awaited by scholars around the world.
Leclant is an eminent scholar of the diffusion of the "late Egyptian religion" in the Roman empire, and has regularly contributed to Orientalia, a chronicle giving an account of the activity of teams working in Egypt.
Regarded as the father of Italian archaeology, Sergio Donadoni has left his mark on many an excavation in Egypt, most notably at Esna, where a large tomb and porticoed structure was found in 1998, as well as Luxor and Sudan. A professor of Egyptology at Rome University, Donadoni studied in both France and Italy, where he specialised in the late-Pharaonic period.
Abdel-Aziz Saleh, dean of the faculty of archaeology at Cairo University from 1976 to 1989, is widely acknowledged around the world for his promotion of studies on ancient Egyptian history and civilisation. He is a prolific scholar, having written numerous books on Egyptian culture, art, education and archaeology and has received numerous awards, including the State Incentive Award in History and Archaeology in 1962, the Medal for Arts and Science a year later, and, in 1982, the Medal of the Republic (second class). If one had to single out one of his many contributions to Egyptology, it would likely be his excavations in Heliopolis, the ancient religious centre of the sun cult, the Biblical "On."
The late Said Tawfik, who devoted his life to Egyptology and rose in position to chairman of the EAO in 1988, is most remembered for his discovery of a complete tomb of a high-ranking official in the reign of Ramses II at Saqqara. An avid research worker, Tawfik was especially interested in the "heretic" king Akhenaton, and his resulting work has been published in Arabic, English and German. He received a Medal for Arts and Science (first class) in 1983.