Wednesday,20 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1333, (23 February - 1 March 2017)
Wednesday,20 March, 2019
Issue 1333, (23 February - 1 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

In praise of Bruce Ludwig

The Lord Carnarvon of our age, US philanthropist Bruce Ludwig has long supported Egyptology and Egypt

Bruce Ludwig
Bruce Ludwig

Bruce Ludwig: I think this name will be remembered for many years to come, for Bruce has done a lot for the field of Egyptology and for all Egyptians.

He has been a good friend to many people, including Ahmed Kadri, who was head of the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation for a long time, and Gamal Mokhtar, a leader of Egyptian archaeology. Bruce has taken Egyptian archaeology from the local level to the world as a whole and has come to be recognised for many projects, including the safeguarding of the Abu Simbel monuments. This article is dedicated to the great Bruce Ludwig.

I first met Ludwig in 1980 when I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania in the US and studying for a doctorate. Ludwig used to fly to Philadelphia and invite me to dinner and all the time talk about his vision for Egyptian archaeology. He always had great ideas. I have to say that if people consider me to be a successful Egyptologist, it is largely due to Ludwig’s advice and Ludwig’s ideas. He is one of the few people in my life that has had such a great vision and great ideas, and I have learned a lot from him.

I am writing about Ludwig today for two main reasons. First, I was looking through a file of old photographs when I found a picture of him and me at Tuna Al-Gabal. With us at that time was the great Kamal Al-Mallakh, the man who discovered the pharaoh Khufu’s boat on the Giza Plateau and was for a time editor of the back page of Al-Ahram. The second reason is that when I look at the other foreigners I know today, I do not see anyone quite like Ludwig.

Owing to his passion for the Valley of the Kings, I have called Ludwig the “Lord Carnarvon of Today”. He financially supported the excavation of Tomb KV5, and he even encouraged his friends to donate to the excavation as well. KV5 is known as the Tomb of the Children of Ramses II because many rooms have been found inside it. However, the archaeological evidence supports the idea that KV5 was in fact a cenotaph for the family of Ramses II.

The tomb was recorded some three times, and the Egyptologist Howard Carter, who found the tomb of Tutankhamun, worked there as well. However, the person who rediscovered KV5 using Ludwig’s financial support was able to convince the head of the Antiquities Organisation at that time to go with him to New York to announce the discovery to the press. As the head of the Organisation at the time had little knowledge of Egyptology, he did not know that KV5 had already been discovered.

The ensuing press conference made it seem as if this was the most important discovery after the tomb of Tutankhamun itself. After the conference, Ludwig appeared on a TV show shot on a boat on the Nile and stole the limelight from the man who had rediscovered KV5, for he talked as if Lord Carnarvon had really come back to life.

I remember I told Ludwig my opinion about KV5 when I was with him once in Los Angeles. I told him that the rooms that had been found were very small and that they could not have held a sarcophagus. As for the bones inside the tomb, these have not been well studied but they are clearly from the Late Period and have nothing to do with Ramses II’s children.

In addition, inside the tomb there is a statue of Osiris, further proof that it was originally a cenotaph. Ludwig simply smiled and said that “I am not an Egyptologist, but the rediscovery has been good publicity for Egypt.”

When I became director of the Giza Plateau after receiving my doctorate, Ludwig used to come to Egypt with his beautiful wife Carolyn and we would always meet. I remember one day he wrote to me saying that his wife would like to meet the actor Omar Sharif. I talked to Sharif, and he liked the idea. Sharif and I arrived at our appointment, and a few minutes later Ludwig and Carolyn arrived. Sharif smiled and kissed Carolyn’s hand. We sat down and Sharif gave a red flower to Carolyn and said some beautiful words that sounded, when said in Sharif’s voice, like music. I saw that Carolyn had almost fainted.

Ludwig is also a member of the board of the American University in Cairo, and he has made great contributions to the university. He first became a board member after the university had had a difficult time choosing a new president. Ludwig, along with the chairman of the board, was able to bring back the former glory of the university, helping it to choose great presidents in the years that followed.

I also remember another important story that happened after Ludwig had become a member of the American University’s board. One day, he came to see me at my office with the late Mark Linz, one of the people who transformed the AUC Press into the incredible institution that it is today. Linz was a dynamic person and a close friend of Ludwig and of mine.

Ludwig said that, “we are going to tell you some important news. The AUC board of trustees has decided to give you an honorary degree.” I could not believe it. It was the happiest day of my life. I went to the celebration and gave a short speech to the students who were graduating that year. After my speech, Ludwig came up to me, laughing, and said “you are one of the few people who can make the kids be quiet,” adding that “I liked your advice to the students.”

I had told the students the story of my passion for archaeology and the fact that passion can make even a small job seem very large indeed. Ludwig has helped young students to study Egyptology because he believes that Egypt needs good archaeologists to be able to achieve great things at its ancient sites. He has paved the way for many young Egyptians to study at American universities. He has been happy to do this, for he feels that in doing so he has been able to help Egypt.

Ludwig is also a good friend of Mark Lehner, a great Egyptologist who has contributed a lot to the study of the Great Pyramids and the Giza Plateau. He assisted Lehner a good deal at the beginning of his work at Giza. He helped with the photogrammetric map of the Sphinx that Lehner created and with his excavations in the workmen’s area.

I had found the tombs of the pyramid builders, and Lehner found the workmen’s installations, including the bakery for making bread, the area for sorting salted fish and the living areas. After all these years, we are happy that our book on Giza, Giza and the Pyramids, is going to be published this year by Thames & Hudson in London.

This article is to thank Bruce Ludwig for all his contributions to Egypt and to Egyptian archaeology. The only thing that I can do for him now is to greet him like the ancient Egyptians used to greet their kings. Ludwig is indeed like a king, and therefore I greet him by saying Ankh-Wdja-Seneb, or life, prosperity and health.

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