Whose Pharaohs?: Archaeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I / Edition 1

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Berkeley, CA 2002 Hardcover First Edition New in New dust jacket 0520221974. New book, unmarked and unread, in crisp dj. 409 pp illustrated.

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Overview


Egypt's rich and celebrated ancient past has served many causes throughout history--in both Egypt and the West. Concentrating on the era from Napoleon's conquest and the discovery of the Rosetta Stone to the outbreak of World War I, this book examines the evolution of Egyptian archaeology in the context of Western imperialism and nascent Egyptian nationalism. Traditionally, histories of Egyptian archaeology have celebrated Western discoverers such as Champollion, Mariette, Maspero, and Petrie, while slighting Rifaa al-Tahtawi, Ahmad Kamal, and other Egyptians. This exceptionally well-illustrated and well-researched book writes Egyptians into the history of archaeology and museums in their own country and shows how changing perceptions of the past helped shape ideas of modern national identity.
Drawing from rich archival sources in Egypt, the United Kingdom, and France, and from little-known Arabic publications, Reid discusses previously neglected topics in both scholarly Egyptology and the popular "Egyptomania" displayed in world's fairs and Orientalist painting and photography. He also examines the link between archaeology and the rise of the modern tourist industry. This richly detailed narrative discusses not only Western and Egyptian perceptions of pharaonic history and archaeology but also perceptions of Egypt's Greco-Roman, Coptic, and Islamic eras.
Throughout this book, Reid demonstrates how the emergence of archaeology affected the interests and self-perceptions of modern Egyptians. In addition to uncovering a wealth of significant new material on the history of archaeology and museums in Egypt, Reid provides a fascinating window on questions of cultural heritage--how it is perceived, constructed, claimed, and contested.
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Editorial Reviews

Archaeology
These interconnections, in which Reid seems to delight, keep the book fresh and interesting. They also remind us that the issues of globalization are not new.
PW Daily
Exceptionally well-written and painstakingly researched....In part, he tries to remedy the longtime domination and control of Egypt's Pharaonic antiquities by Europeans and Americans.
Library Journal
In his Rape of the Nile, Brian Fagan presented a popular survey showing how Europeans and later Americans descended upon Egypt as soldiers, tourists, and scholars to loot the country's ancient heritage with no concern for the aspirations of the Egyptians themselves. Fred Bratton's A History of Egyptian Archaeology traced the development of modern Egyptology with no reference to Egyptian scholars. Reid (history, Georgia State Univ.), the author of several books on the Middle East, here offers a scholarly assessment of the reaction of the Egyptian intelligentsia to the plundering and control of the nation's antiquities and the role these activities played in the growth of Egyptian nationalism. As Reid shows, the Europeans established museums for Pharaonic artifacts but paid little or no attention to the Coptic and Islamic architectural and artistic legacy. The Egyptians took it upon themselves to found museums and institutions to preserve and study these treasures. Reid documents the tensions between the Egyptians and the Europeans who administered Egyptian institutions in a lively narrative with full references and an extensive bibliography. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520221970
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 2/12/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 424
  • Lexile: 1410L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author


Donald Malcolm Reid is Professor of History at Georgia State University and author of Cairo University and the Making of Modern Egypt (1990), Lawyers and Politics in the Arab World, 1880-1960 (1981), and The Odyssey of Farah Antun: A Syrian Christian's Quest for Secularism (1975).
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Read an Excerpt

Introduction


France, snatching an obelisk from the ever heightening mud of the Nile, or the savage ignorance of the Turks ... earns a right to the thanks of the learned of Europe, to whom belong all the monuments of antiquity, because they alone know how to appreciate them. Antiquity is a garden that belongs by natural right to those who cultivate and harvest its fruits.

Captain E. de Verninac Saint-Maur, Voyage de Luxor(1835)


It is indeed a matter of deep regret that the monuments should be ours and the history should be ours, but that those who write books on the history of ancient Egypt should not be Egyptians...Nevertheless we cannot avoid expressing admiration for Professor Selim Hassan on his archaeological skill and his continuous finds, the last of which was the fourth pyramid.

The Arabic newspaper Al-Balagh, 26 February 1932


This book examines the evolving uses that Egyptians—mostly nationalists—and Europeans—mostly imperialists—made of various eras of the long Egyptian past between Bonaparte's conquest in 1798 and the outbreak of World War I. European archaeology in Egypt began in earnest during the French expedition. French soldiers uncovered the Rosetta Stone by accident in 1799, and twenty-three years later Jean-François Champollion's decipherment of its hieroglyphic text opened the door to modern Egyptology. In the half-century between 1858 and 1908, Europeans played key roles in the founding of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and four historical museums—the Egyptian Museum (for the pharaonic period), the Greco-Roman Museum, the Coptic Museum, and theMuseum of Arab (now Islamic) Art. During those same fifty years, Western imperialism—fueled back home by the industrial revolution, the demand for imported cotton and other raw materials, the quest for overseas markets and investment opportunities, the exigencies of emerging mass politics, and intra-European rivalries—firmly fastened its grip on Egypt. Archaeology and imperialism seemed to walk hand in hand.

Learning about archaeology primarily from the Europeans, Egyptians gradually came to realize that it could be turned to their own ends. Once persuaded of the vital role archaeology could play in shaping their modern national identity, Egyptians began searching for ways to train their own archaeologists. This set the stage for nationalist challenges both to European control of Egypt's archaeological institutions and to Western imperialists' interpretations of its history.

Geopolitical considerations alone would have impelled nineteenth-century Westerners to try to control Egypt, but fantastic visions of its long past powerfully reinforced the impetus. Westerners stepping ashore variously imagined themselves entering the world of the pharaohs, the Bible, the Greeks and Romans, and the Quran and the Arabian Nights. Florence Nightingale evoked all four worlds in a single sentence: "Here Osiris and his worshipers lived; here Abraham and Moses walked; here Aristotle came; here, later, Mahomet learnt the best of his religion and studied Christianity; here, perhaps our Saviour's Mother brought her little son to open his eyes to the light."

These were not the only prisms through which Westerners viewed Egyptian encounters. Heirs of Hermeticism saw Egypt as the fountainhead of occult wisdom; belief in mystical "pyramid power" persists today. Others imagined themselves returning crusaders, though this was more usual in Syria-Palestine—General Allenby entering Jerusalem in 1917 or General Gouraud, Damascus in 1920. Romantics grieving for a lost preindustrial world at home looked for noble savages or "natural aristocrats" in the Bedouin. Anglo-Indians saw in Egyptians generic Orientals who could be ruled with techniques honed in India. Since no one arrived a tabula rasa, the only question was which preconceived filters one used and how these affected encounters with Egyptian realities.

Two French visions aptly symbolize Western engagement with Egyptian antiquity across the long nineteenth century—the frontispiece of the Napoleonic expedition's Description de l'Égypte and the building of the Egyptian Museum, inaugurated in Cairo in 1902 and still in use today. In the frontispiece, a richly decorated frame invites the viewer into a nostalgic Nile landscape stretching from Alexandria to Aswan.

This is an antique land, abounding in pharaonic ruins. There is no sign of Islamic monuments, Cairo, or modern inhabitants. Atop the frame, a nude Bonaparte in the guise of Apollo or Alexander brandishes a spear from his chariot as Mamluks go down before him. Twelve Muses in the hero's train return the arts to Egypt, their legendary land of origin.

A century later, in 1902, the facade of Cairo's Egyptian Museum and the garden monument to its founder, Auguste Mariette, honored heroes of European Egyptology since Napoleon. The list of founding fathers on the facade celebrated six French Egyptologists, five Britons, four Germans, three Italians, a Dutchman, a Dane, and a Swede. There were no Egyptians. Another plaque affirmed the classical gateway through which the West had long viewed ancient Egypt, interposing Herodotus, Eratosthenes, Manetho, and Horapollo between plaques commemorating ancient rulers and those honoring the modern scholars.

Goddesses personifying Upper and Lower Egypt flanked the portal. The "wet drapery" look of late classical Greek female sculpture revealed their bodies at a time when upper-class Egyptian women lived in seclusion and wore face veils when they ventured out. Putting the name of the hapless khedive Abbas Hilmi [II] in the inscription over the portal was normal but not much of a concession to local sensibility (see figure 6). The text was in Latin, which not one Egyptian in a thousand could read. No Egyptian government school of the day taught the language. Adding the Islamic (Hijri) date alongside the a.d. one hardly counted as a concession, either, for it was doubly disguised in the Latin language and Roman numerals: anno Hegirae MCCCXVII. To Egyptians, the facade may well have said: "Egyptology is a European science which has rediscovered the greatness of ancient Egypt, a forerunner of Western civilization. Modern Egyptians are unworthy heirs of ancient ones and incapable of either national greatness or serious Egyptology."

In both politics and archaeology, Egyptians had different visions. The front-page scene of an 1899 issue of a short-lived Arabic magazine for schoolchildren put ancient Egypt at the center of a modern national renaissance.The sun beams down "The Light of Knowledge" on a traditionally dressed woman who directs her children's attention to the Pyramids and Sphinx. Abbas II—not Napoleon—presides over this scene, and four additional inset portraits honor reformist officials, scholars, and educators, three of whom (Rifaa al-Tahtawi, Mahmud al-Falaki, and Ali Mubarak) figure prominently in this book. Thus by the turn of the twentieth century, seeds were already being sown for the flowering in the 1920s of national pride in both the pharaohs and Egyptian Egyptology.

It was not only to the pharaonic era that Western scholars and their publics implicitly laid claim. Europeans took the lead in founding two other museums in Egypt—the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria and the Museum of Arab (now Islamic) Art—and they inspired the Egyptian who founded the Coptic Museum. Like the Egyptian Museum, which displayed the fruits of Egyptology, each of these three museums represented both an emerging scholarly discipline and an era or aspect of Egypt's long past. With these museums and their fields of study too, Egyptians felt the need to train experts who could lend credibility to nationalist insistence that they must manage and interpret the remains of all eras of their national past.

The three museums with European founding directors remained largely European-dominated until the 1950s. The separate origin, institutional affiliation, and evolution of each of the three fragmented what nationalists came to insist was a unified Egyptian past.

The sequence in which the museums came into being also reflected European more than Egyptian priorities. The Egyptian Museum (for pharaonic antiquities) came first because Europeans were rediscovering ancient Egypt and following the ancient Greek example in appropriating it as a forerunner of their own Western civilization. The very words "Egyptian Museum" and "Egyptology" still echo the primacy that Westerners accorded to the pharaonic era. Logically, Egyptology should include the study of any era of Egypt's past, but the term crystallized in the mid-nineteenth century to mean only the study of ancient Egypt, with the Greco-Roman and Coptic eras often tacked on as a postscript. This usage slights Islamic and modern Egypt and seems to imply that somehow "Egypt ceases to be Egypt when it ceases to be ancient."

Cairo's Museum of Arab Art was founded next, a byproduct of the Committee of Conservation of Monuments of Arab Art (hereafter simply "the Comité," from the French name by which it is generally known: Comité de conservation des monuments de l'arte arabe), founded in 1881. The Comité and this museum, which opened to the public in 1884, reflected not the West's search for its roots but the fascination of some Westerners with an exotic "Oriental other."

The Greco-Roman Museum followed in 1892, situated, appropriately, not in Cairo but in the former Ptolemaic and Roman capital of Alexandria. Europeans identified far more easily with Greece and Rome than with ancient Egypt or Islam. Many denied any Greco-Roman debt to ancient Egypt or saw it as merely a stepping stone to the greater glories of Greece and Rome. With classical museums flourishing all over Europe, another one in Egypt did not seemed urgent at first. By 1892, however, with many of the British elite who were ruling Egypt having been classically trained, and with large European colonies planted there, it was time for a Greco-Roman museum. In Italy, the upper classes had been mining the ancient Roman heritage for legitimacy since the Renaissance, and nationalists proud of the reunification of Italy during the nineteenth century renewed the impulse. Three successive Italian directors of Alexandria's Greco-Roman Museum staked out the cultural claims of their homeland on this former province of Rome.

The Coptic Museum of 1908 was the last of the four museums to be founded. The Protestants and Catholics of the West had long denounced the Coptic Church for heresy and for reflecting the presumed defects of its "Oriental" environment. But Western Christians—and later Jews—eager to "prove the Bible" in the face of secularism, scientism, and the higher criticism also turned to archaeology to bolster their case. They probed Palestine and the rest of the Fertile Crescent for supporting archaeological evidence, and could hardly ignore the land of the Nile, with its associations with Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Mary, and Saint Mark. Copts traced their church back to Mark and had practically invented Christian monasticism. By the 1890s, a few Europeans were turning their attention to Coptic art and architecture, and it was their enthusiasm that inspired Marcus Simaika to found the Coptic Museum. The museum was unusual, having an Egyptian founding director and being under communal Coptic rather than state control.

The primary purpose of this book is to write modern Egyptians into the histories of these four museums and the institutions and disciplines associated with them—Egyptology, classical studies, Coptic studies, and Islamic art and archaeology. Western histories of these disciplines usually downplay the imperial ethos of the day, and even those that highlight it relegate Egyptians to the margins. This book also examines more popular perceptions of the Egyptian past, in both Egypt and the West, tying them to issues of imperialism, nationalism, and Egyptian identity.

These developments in Egyptian archaeology and museology were part of a global process in which states and peoples, over the course of the nineteenth century, struggled to define themselves as modern nations. It made a vast difference whether or not one was a citizen of the Western great powers—Britain, France, Germany, and eventually the United States—which were caught up in the worldwide contest for political, economic, and cultural influence. In colonized lands such as Egypt and India, museums and archaeology became significant arenas in the struggle for national independence. In independent but semiperipheral countries such as Greece, Italy, imperial Russia, and Mexico, efforts to harness the study and display of the past to national purposes variously reflected features of archaeology in both the dominant and the colonized countries.

This book attempts synthesis on five levels. First, it juxtaposes the relatively familiar history of Western archaeologists with that of their neglected Egyptian counterparts. Even after Michel Foucault, Edward Said, and the revival of Antonio Gramsci, positivist assumptions about progressive, objective, "scientific" knowledge still underlie much writing about Egyptian archaeology. Champollion, Richard Lepsius, Auguste Mariette, Gaston-Camille-Charles Maspero, Adolf Erman, Flinders Petrie, Howard Carter, James Breasted, and George Reisner strut heroically across the stage. Egyptians flicker in the shadows as trusty foremen, loyal servants, laborers, tomb robbers, antiquities dealers, obstructionist officials, and benighted nationalists. Unconventional juxtapositions—Champollion and Rifaa al-Tahtawi, E.W. Lane and al-Tahtawi, Maspero and Ahmad Kamal, Max Herz and Ali Bahgat—are used in this book to challenge such narratives. The point is not to belittle Western achievements or to exaggerate similarities between Egyptians and Europeans but to point up the inequalities of power, challenge assumptions that "never the twain shall meet," and show that disciplinary histories should be more than Western monologues into Egyptian silence.

The first edition of the indispensable reference work Who Was Who in Egyptology(1951) omitted the pioneering Egyptian Egyptologist Ahmad Kamal altogether. The second and third editions of this British work made good the slight, but the third edition (1995) accorded Kamal a scant 20 lines to Maspero's 82 and Petrie's 134. Maspero and Petrie were indeed giants, but Kamal's low profile cries out for contextual explanation. Works such as Who Was Who tend to abstract science from its sociopolitical context and downplay national and personal rivalries. This makes it impossible to understand Egyptology as these scholars lived it. The reign of English, French, and German as the international languages of Egyptology was just one of many factors that gave Europeans an overwhelming advantage.

A second strand of synthesis is the insertion of the history of archaeology and museums into the mainstream history of modern Egypt. After the nationalist excesses of World War II, many Western archaeologists reasserted earlier positivist claims of their discipline to be an objective, value-free science. In the past twenty years, this claim has, however, come under increasing fire. Probing the politics of archaeology is back in fashion in the West, but in the case of Egypt the necessary reevaluation has only begun. Mariette and Maspero are justly remembered as great Egyptologists, but they should also be remembered as influential actors in the imperialism of their day. Titles such as The Rape of the Nile, The Rape of Egypt, and The Rape of Tutankhamun do convey recent Western recognition of the imperialist side of nineteenth-century Egyptology but leave Westerners center stage and cast Egyptians mainly in the role of victims.

Meanwhile, modern Egyptian historians have concentrated their revisionist efforts elsewhere, paying little attention to archaeology. Few Egyptians and fewer Westerners have heard of Ahmad Kamal, Ali Bahgat, or Marcus Simaika. Other Egyptians in this book are better known—al-Jabarti, al-Tahtawi, Ali Mubarak, Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid, Taha Husayn, and King Fuad—but not for their relationship to archaeology, museums, and ancient history. Who recalls that in his first university post, Taha Husayn was a professor not of Arabic literature but of Greco-Roman history?

At a third level of synthesis, the histories of Egyptology, Greco-Roman studies, Coptology, and Islamic art and archaeology are considered together. In all four disciplines, the subject of study is Egypt's past, but specialists in one discipline rarely venture much beyond their own, and sometimes the next nearest, compartment. Differences in the languages, writing systems, and religions of different eras make specialization essential, but disciplinary boundaries and periodizations can become blinders. Historians of modern Egypt are usually content to leave the history of archaeology to archaeologists (and to popular writers), but something is thereby lost. Insider histories of disciplines by their practitioners are indispensable, but modern historian outsiders to these specialties may well be better suited to setting them in the wider contexts of modern Egyptian history.

The fourth strand is the synthesis of scholarly and popular interest in the Egyptian past, both in Egypt and the West. Scholarly histories of Egyptology and the other disciplines frequently sidestep popular ideas—some of which are fantastic—about the objects of their study. The burgeoning literature on "Egyptomania" has, however, examined pharaonic themes in Western painting, photography, clothing styles, travel literature, novels, popular songs, classical music, world's fairs, guidebooks, postcards, and postage stamps. Beginning with London's Great (or Crystal Palace) Exhibition of 1851, a world's fair without an Egyptian exhibit hardly seemed worthy of the name. On the Egyptian side, "pharaonist" or "pharaonicist" motifs in the nationalist symbolism of the 1920s and early 1930s have lately received scholarly attention.In tracing the little-known earlier background of the phenomenon, I have preferred, although they are somewhat awkward, such phrases as "Egyptian Egyptomania" or "popular Egyptian enthusiasm for ancient Egypt" to "pharaonism" or "pharaonicism," which for many Muslims evoke unpalatable images of the idolatrous Quranic (and biblical) tyrant who oppressed Moses and the Israelites.

Where Egyptology leaves off and Egyptomania begins is not always clear. Promoters enlisted Mariette, his German colleague Heinrich Brugsch, and the Comité architect Max Herz to guarantee authenticity in the Egyptian displays at the great exhibitions. Karl Baedeker, Thomas Cook, and John Murray recruited expert scholars to write sections of the guidebooks that tourists carried up the Nile. Western painters and photographers ranged from casual tourists to professional archaeologists. Georg Ebers wrote Egyptological monographs with one hand and novels with pharaonic settings with the other. Mariette the Egyptologist ran the Antiquities Service and museum, while Mariette the Egyptomaniac dreamed up the fantasy that became Verdi's Aida. Mariette insisted on meticulous authenticity in the sets and costumes for the opera, but what does authenticity mean in a European musical extravaganza that no ancient Egyptian and few Egyptians of his own day could have understood?

The fifth strand of attempted synthesis in this book relates the interplay between nationalism and imperialism on the one hand to the ideal of objective, universal science on the other. Neither Westerners nor Egyptians had much success in resolving the dilemma of being good citizens simultaneously of two imagined communities—one political and particularist (either Western imperialist or Egyptian nationalist) and the other internationalist. In this book's opening quotation, Saint-Maur justified carrying off an obelisk from Luxor to Paris by mixing an internationalist appeal to "the learned of Europe" with one to French patriotism and French imperialism. A century later, an anonymous Egyptian writer in Al-Balagh similarly mixed internationalist and nationalist rhetoric: "Science neither has nor should have a country, for it is the fruit of efforts made by human thought for the welfare of humanity. It must have no geographical boundaries and must be free from local or national prejudices. Nevertheless we cannot avoid expressing admiration for Professor Selim Hassan on his archaeological skill and his continuous finds, the last of which was the fourth pyramid."

Western imperialism versus Egyptian nationalism thus provides a necessary—but neither a simple nor a sufficient—framework for this account. British, French, German, Italian, Austro-Hungarian, and American archaeologists all showed imperialist tendencies in their approach to archaeology in pre-1914 Egypt. Some scholars were more consciously political than others, and individual rivalries between compatriots could be fierce. Individual Egyptian archaeologists also differed in the degree of their commitment to nationalism and their means of expressing it. Sometimes Westerners closed ranks, donned the pious mantle of progressive science, and denounced Egyptians as mere chauvinists. "For the native," remarked Frantz Fanon, "objectivity is always directed against him."

The creative tension between Edward Said and anti-Orientalist critics on the one hand and empirically minded historians critical of Said on the other is never far beneath the surface of this book. Said emphasizes the complicity of Orientalists in imposing Western imperialism on the Islamic world. Historians among his critics often concede Said's insights while finding his indictment of Orientalism too doctrinaire and inadequately grounded in historical specifics.

John MacKenzie's Orientalism: History, Theory, and the Arts argues that despite the inequalities of power, the encounter between Westerners and "Orientals" was a two-way street and led to varied, unpredictable results. Limiting himself to the arts, the English-speaking world, and Western views of the encounter, he argues that many Orientalist painters, architects, designers, dramatists, and musicians were neither hostile to their subject nor promoters of imperialism. Edmund Burke III points out that Said's concentration on J.B. Fourier's highly ideological preface to the Description de l'Égypte made him miss other implications of the work. "Said's Orientalism," says Burke, "endlessly recycles the same essentialisms, tropes and stereotypes, forever tainted by the colonial auspices under which it operates. It has a genealogy, but it has no history."Carter Findley ("An Ottoman Occidentalist in Europe") acknowledges Said's insights while opening other fruitful lines of interpretation.

This book also occasionally suggests spaces within which supplementary or alternative narratives might be developed. From a subalternist perspective, Prasenjit Duara urges the necessity of "rescuing history from the nation."Some might try to do so on behalf of objectivity—"that noble dream"—but Peter Novick doubts that this is a viable option. To subalternists, nationalist discourse is a tool for perpetuating elite dominance—ruling elites over subalterns, the metropolis over the province, males over females. One might develop narratives of the history of Egyptian archaeology as seen from "below" or from the viewpoints of "fragments of the nation"—women, Copts, Upper Egyptians, tourist guides, archaeological laborers, antiquities dealers, Nile boat crews, villagers from the Giza pyramids or Qurna (across the river from Luxor), or Islamists, including the splinter groups who have attacked tourists. Despite the cogency of Duara's postcolonialist prescription, an account of the early stages of the Egyptian attempt to enlist archaeology in "rescuing the nation from the empire" is a central thread in this discussion.

What follows is not a comprehensive history of Egyptology, Coptology, Greco-Roman studies, or Islamic art and archaeology. Because this book focuses on developments in Egypt itself, Egyptologists like Samuel Birch of the British Museum and Adolf Erman of the University of Berlin, who preferred their studies or museum halls at home to working in the field, are marginalized. Mariette and Maspero, in contrast, loom large here because of their long and influential activities in Egypt.

As for periodization, a "long nineteenth century" from 1798 to 1914 works reasonably well for the purposes of this book. Revisionists have successfully challenged the function of Bonaparte's expedition of 1798 or the accession of Muhammad Ali in 1805 as clear-cut divides between "medieval" and "modern" Egypt. The assumption that a dynamic West imparted motion to a stagnant East is untenable, and many continuities bridged the presumed chronological divide. Nevertheless, 1798 works as a starting point for this book: Without the French expedition, there would have been no Rosetta Stone or Description de l'Égypte. Without the stone, the decipherment of hieroglyphics would have been delayed and, until the decipherment, most pharaonic history would have remained missing. Modern Egypt and Egyptology would have emerged in any case, but at a different pace and in unknowably different ways.

The terminal point is 1914, the year both Maspero and Ahmed Kamal retired, World War I halted German and Austro-Hungarian archaeology in Egypt, and fieldwork by the British, French, and others slowed to a crawl. The departure of the Austro-Hungarian Max Herz from the Comité and the Museum of Arab Art suddenly opened the door to the Egyptianization of the museum under Ali Bahgat. In the wake of World War I, the uprising of 1919 and the British concession of limited independence in 1922 ushered in a new, semicolonial era for national politics, museums, and archaeology. For thirty years thereafter, Egyptianization of archaeology and the government progressed fitfully and rearguard actions enabled Europeans to keep a tenuous grip on the levers of power until the 1952 revolution.

This book draws on archival and published sources in Arabic and Western languages, which are supplemented with interviews. It uses unpublished documents from the Egyptian National Archives (Dar al-Wathaiq al-Qawmiyya), the archives of the Egyptian Ministry of Finance (Dar al-Mahfuzat), the Cairo University archives, the foreign affairs archives of Britain and France, and the archives of the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania's University Museum. The most remarkable find was the hitherto unexploited manuscript memoirs of Marcus Simaika, the founder of the Coptic Museum.

Part 1, "Imperial and National Preludes," narrates the period before the British occupation of 1882. Chapter 1 examines Western and Muslim images of ancient Egypt before the nineteenth century, the French expedition and the Description de l'Égypte, and the evolution of Anglo-French Egyptological rivalry until mid-century. It inserts al-Jabarti, Rifaa al-Tahtawi, Muhammad Ali, and Joseph Hekekyan into the usually Eurocentric history of Egyptology.

Chapter 2 shows how the steamship, railroad, modern guidebook, and tourist hotel came together in the invention of mass tourism, with Egypt and Thomas Cook playing leading parts. Economic, political, and social transformations in the West made this new age of tourism possible. The travel accounts, painting, and photography of Egypt have received considerable scholarly attention, but the roles Egyptians played in these processes still await serious examination.

Chapter 3 treats Egyptology in the three decades—centered on Ismail's reign—that culminated in the British occupation of 1882. As the shadow of Western imperialism lengthened after mid-century, viceroys Said and Ismail supported Mariette in establishing the Egyptian Antiquities Service and Egyptian Museum. Mariette also fed the European appetite for Egyptomania in his arrangements for the Suez Canal ceremonies, the plot for Aida, and two universal expositions in Paris. Al-Tahtawi wrote the first Arabic history of ancient Egypt, and Minister of Education Ali Mubarak brought Heinrich Brugsch in from Germany to direct an Egyptian School of Egyptology. A few Egyptians began to participate—albeit on unequal terms—in the Khedivial Geographical Society, Institut égyptien, and International Congresses of Orientalists.

Part 2 covers the heyday of the British occupation (1882-1914), with a chapter on each of the four museums and their associated disciplines. The terms of the consuls general Lord Cromer and Lord Kitchener bracketed the era politically, while Maspero and Petrie dominated the Egyptological scene. The aging Ali Mubarak discussed Egyptian monuments of all eras in his topographical encyclopedia Al-Khitat al-Tawfiqiyya, and Ahmad Kamal, Ali Bahgat, and Marcus Simaika led a new generation in promoting, respectively, Egyptology, Islamic archaeology, and Coptology.

Chapter 4 takes up the Greco-Roman Museum and classical studies. British and French imperialists in Egypt from Napoleon to Cromer and Kitchener donned the mantles of Alexander and Caesar. The Greco-Roman Museum flourished under Italian directors Guiseppe Botti and Evaristo Breccia, with the cosmopolitan Archaeological Society of Alexandria and the municipality providing key support. No Egyptian classicist or classical archaeologist of the stature of Kamal, Bahgat, or Simaika had emerged by 1914, but a few Egyptians had experimented with the classical discourse that Western imperialists found so congenial.

Chapter 5 examines Egyptology between 1882 and 1914. Maspero, Petrie, and the Egyptian Exploration Fund stand out on the European side; Ahmad Kamal, on the Egyptian. Anglo-French archaeological skirmishes foreshadowed the two powers' showdown at Fashoda in the Sudan in 1898, and the 1904 Entente cordiale had an archaeological as well as a geopolitical aspect. The government moved the Egyptian Museum from Bulaq to Giza, then back across the Nile to its present building in Midan al-Tahrir. Around the turn of the century, Germans resumed fieldwork in Egypt and American Egyptologists began to make their mark. Ahmad Kamal plugged away at his dual causes of contributing to Egyptological scholarship and popularizing ancient Egypt among his countrymen. He helped persuade writers and politicians such as Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid to embrace the pharaonic patrimony.

Chapter 6 turns to the Comité de conservation des monuments de l'art arabe, the Museum of Arab Art, and the neo-Islamic architectural revival. Julius Franz, a German, and Max Herz, a Hungarian Jew, successively guided the Comité and museum from 1881 to 1914. Yaqub Artin, an Armenian Catholic, tried to mediate European scholarly culture to Egyptians. Ali Bahgat served restlessly under Herz for a decade before beginning his pioneering excavations at the early Arab-Islamic provincial capital of al-Fustat in 1912. Two years later, Herz's sudden departure opened the way for Bahgat to become curator of the Museum of Arab Art.

Chapter 7 examines Coptic studies and the Coptic Museum, drawing especially on Marcus Simaika's hitherto unexploited memoirs. The chapter situates archaeology and Coptic history both in intra-Coptic debates over social reform and in Egyptian national politics. The "Modern Sons of the Pharaohs?" in the title of this chapter highlights the affinity for ancient Egypt that some educated Copts began to assert around the turn of the century.

After summing up developments in the four fields over the course of the nineteenth century, the conclusion points toward the changes in store after World War I. In 1922, Britain's declaration of qualified Egyptian independence and the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb linked Egyptology and nationalism more explicitly than ever before. Egyptians used their new autonomy to open a state university in 1925. It included departments of Egyptology and classics, and a graduate program in Islamic archaeology followed a few years later. Nationalists trumpeted pride in pharaonic forefathers, and writers, painters, architects, sculptors, textbook authors, and postage-stamp designers expressed this through the adoption of pharaonic symbolism.

The deaths of Ahmad Kamal, in 1923, and Ali Bahgat, in 1924, deprived archaeology of experienced Egyptian leaders at a critical moment, however, and in 1924 the fall of Sa{ayn}d Zaghlul's government dashed hopes for full and immediate independence. Over the next quarter century, Pierre Lacau and Étienne Drioton in turn kept a tenuous French grip on the Antiquities Service and Egyptian Museum, Achille Adriani followed Breccia at the Greco-Roman Museum, and the Museum of Arab Art reverted to a European director, Gaston Wiet. Europeans headed the Egyptian University's Egyptology department, and in 1933 Captain Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell founded the university's Islamic archaeology program. That Drioton, Wiet, and Creswell were great scholars did not lessen the frustration of nationalists. It would take Nasser's 1952 revolution to achieve two goals that eluded the generation of 1919—full independence and national control of museums and archaeology.


Excerpted from Whose Pharaohs? by Donald Malcolm Reid. Copyright © 2001 by the Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Note on Transliteration, Translation, and Dates
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Imperial and National Preludes, 1798-1882
1 Rediscovering Ancient Egypt: Champollion and al-Tahtawi 21
2 From Explorer to Cook's Tourist 64
3 Egyptology under Ismail: Mariette, al-Tahtawi, and Brugsch, 1850-1882 93
Pt. 2 Imperial High Noon, Nationalist Dawn, 1882-1914
4 Cromer and the Classics: Ideological Uses of the Greco-Roman Past 139
5 Egyptology in the Age of Maspero and Ahmad Kamal 172
6 Islamic Art, Archaeology, and Orientalism: the Comite and Ali Bahgat 213
7 Modern Sons of the Pharaohs? Marcus Simaika and the Coptic Past 258
Conclusion 287
Appendix: Supplementary Tables 299
Notes 309
Select Bibliography 365
Index 385
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First Chapter

Whose Pharaohs?

Archaeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I
By Donald Malcolm Reid

The University of California Press

Copyright © 2001 Regents of the University of California
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-520-24069-3


Introduction

France, snatching an obelisk from the ever heightening mud of the Nile, or the savage ignorance of the Turks ... earns a right to the thanks of the learned of Europe, to whom belong all the monuments of antiquity, because they alone know how to appreciate them. Antiquity is a garden that belongs by natural right to those who cultivate and harvest its fruits. Captain E. de Verninac Saint-Maur, Voyage de Luxor (1835)

It is indeed a matter of deep regret that the monuments should be ours and the history should be ours, but that those who write books on the history of ancient Egypt should not be Egyptians.... Nevertheless we cannot avoid expressing admiration for Professor Selim Hassan on his archaeological skill and his continuous finds, the last of which was the fourth pyramid. The Arabic newspaper Al-Balagh, 26 February 1932

This book examines the evolving uses that Egyptians-mostly nationalists-and Europeans-mostly imperialists-made of various eras of the long Egyptian past between Bonaparte's conquest in 1798 and the outbreak of World War I. European archaeology in Egypt began in earnest during the Frenchexpedition. French soldiers uncovered the Rosetta Stone by accident in 1799, and twenty-three years later Jean-François Champollion's decipherment of its hieroglyphic text opened the door to modern Egyptology. In the half-century between 1858 and 1908, Europeans played key roles in the founding of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and four historical museums-the Egyptian Museum (for the pharaonic period), the Greco-Roman Museum, the Coptic Museum, and the Museum of Arab (now Islamic) Art. During those same fifty years, Western imperialism-fueled back home by the industrial revolution, the demand for imported cotton and other raw materials, the quest for overseas markets and investment opportunities, the exigencies of emerging mass politics, and intra-European rivalries-firmly fastened its grip on Egypt. Archaeology and imperialism seemed to walk hand in hand.

Learning about archaeology primarily from the Europeans, Egyptians gradually came to realize that it could be turned to their own ends. Once persuaded of the vital role archaeology could play in shaping their modern national identity, Egyptians began searching for ways to train their own archaeologists. This set the stage for nationalist challenges both to European control of Egypt's archaeological institutions and to Western imperialists' interpretations of its history.

Geopolitical considerations alone would have impelled nineteenth-century Westerners to try to control Egypt, but fantastic visions of its long past powerfully reinforced the impetus. Westerners stepping ashore variously imagined themselves entering the world of the pharaohs, the Bible, the Greeks and Romans, and the Quran and the Arabian Nights. Florence Nightingale evoked all four worlds in a single sentence: "Here Osiris and his worshipers lived; here Abraham and Moses walked; here Aristotle came; here, later, Mahomet learnt the best of his religion and studied Christianity; here, perhaps our Saviour's Mother brought her little son to open his eyes to the light."

These were not the only prisms through which Westerners viewed Egyptian encounters. Heirs of Hermeticism saw Egypt as the fountainhead of occult wisdom; belief in mystical "pyramid power" persists today. Others imagined themselves returning crusaders, though this was more usual in Syria-Palestine-General Allenby entering Jerusalem in 1917 or General Gouraud, Damascus in 1920. Romantics grieving for a lost preindustrial world at home looked for noble savages or "natural aristocrats" in the Bedouin. Anglo-Indians saw in Egyptians generic Orientals who could be ruled with techniques honed in India. Since no one arrived a tabula rasa, the only question was which preconceived filters one used and how these affected encounters with Egyptian realities.

Two French visions aptly symbolize Western engagement with Egyptian antiquity across the long nineteenth century-the frontispiece of the Napoleonic expedition's Description de l'Égypte and the building of the Egyptian Museum, inaugurated in Cairo in 1902 and still in use today. In the frontispiece, a richly decorated frame invites the viewer into a nostalgic Nile landscape stretching from Alexandria to Aswan. This is an antique land, abounding in pharaonic ruins. There is no sign of Islamic monuments, Cairo, or modern inhabitants. Atop the frame, a nude Bonaparte in the guise of Apollo or Alexander brandishes a spear from his chariot as Mamluks go down before him. Twelve Muses in the hero's train return the arts to Egypt, their legendary land of origin.

A century later, in 1902, the facade of Cairo's Egyptian Museum and the garden monument to its founder, Auguste Mariette, honored heroes of European Egyptology since Napoleon. The list of founding fathers on the facade celebrated six French Egyptologists, five Britons, four Germans, three Italians, a Dutchman, a Dane, and a Swede. There were no Egyptians. Another plaque affirmed the classical gateway through which the West had long viewed ancient Egypt, interposing Herodotus, Eratosthenes, Manetho, and Horapollo between plaques commemorating ancient rulers and those honoring the modern scholars.

Goddesses personifying Upper and Lower Egypt flanked the portal. The "wet drapery" look of late classical Greek female sculpture revealed their bodies at a time when upper-class Egyptian women lived in seclusion and wore face veils when they ventured out. Putting the name of the hapless khedive Abbas Hilmi [II] in the inscription over the portal was normal but not much of a concession to local sensibility (see figure 6). The text was in Latin, which not one Egyptian in a thousand could read. No Egyptian government school of the day taught the language. Adding the Islamic (Hijri) date alongside the a.d. one hardly counted as a concession, either, for it was doubly disguised in the Latin language and Roman numerals: anno Hegirae MCCCXVII. To Egyptians, the facade may well have said: "Egyptology is a European science which has rediscovered the greatness of ancient Egypt, a forerunner of Western civilization. Modern Egyptians are unworthy heirs of ancient ones and incapable of either national greatness or serious Egyptology."

In both politics and archaeology, Egyptians had different visions. The front-page scene of an 1899 issue of a short-lived Arabic magazine for schoolchildren put ancient Egypt at the center of a modern national renaissance. The sun beams down "The Light of Knowledge" on a traditionally dressed woman who directs her children's attention to the Pyramids and Sphinx. Abbas II-not Napoleon-presides over this scene, and four additional inset portraits honor reformist officials, scholars, and educators, three of whom (Rifaa al-Tahtawi, Mahmud al-Falaki, and Ali Mubarak) figure prominently in this book. Thus by the turn of the twentieth century, seeds were already being sown for the flowering in the 1920s of national pride in both the pharaohs and Egyptian Egyptology.

It was not only to the pharaonic era that Western scholars and their publics implicitly laid claim. Europeans took the lead in founding two other museums in Egypt-the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria and the Museum of Arab (now Islamic) Art-and they inspired the Egyptian who founded the Coptic Museum. Like the Egyptian Museum, which displayed the fruits of Egyptology, each of these three museums represented both an emerging scholarly discipline and an era or aspect of Egypt's long past. With these museums and their fields of study too, Egyptians felt the need to train experts who could lend credibility to nationalist insistence that they must manage and interpret the remains of all eras of their national past.

The three museums with European founding directors remained largely European-dominated until the 1950s. The separate origin, institutional affiliation, and evolution of each of the three fragmented what nationalists came to insist was a unified Egyptian past.

The sequence in which the museums came into being also reflected European more than Egyptian priorities. The Egyptian Museum (for pharaonic antiquities) came first because Europeans were rediscovering ancient Egypt and following the ancient Greek example in appropriating it as a forerunner of their own Western civilization. The very words "Egyptian Museum" and "Egyptology" still echo the primacy that Westerners accorded to the pharaonic era. Logically, Egyptology should include the study of any era of Egypt's past, but the term crystallized in the mid-nineteenth century to mean only the study of ancient Egypt, with the Greco-Roman and Coptic eras often tacked on as a postscript. This usage slights Islamic and modern Egypt and seems to imply that somehow "Egypt ceases to be Egypt when it ceases to be ancient."

Cairo's Museum of Arab Art was founded next, a byproduct of the Committee of Conservation of Monuments of Arab Art (hereafter simply "the Comité," from the French name by which it is generally known: Comité de conservation des monuments de l'arte arabe), founded in 1881. The Comité and this museum, which opened to the public in 1884, reflected not the West's search for its roots but the fascination of some Westerners with an exotic "Oriental other."

The Greco-Roman Museum followed in 1892, situated, appropriately, not in Cairo but in the former Ptolemaic and Roman capital of Alexandria. Europeans identified far more easily with Greece and Rome than with ancient Egypt or Islam. Many denied any Greco-Roman debt to ancient Egypt or saw it as merely a stepping stone to the greater glories of Greece and Rome. With classical museums flourishing all over Europe, another one in Egypt did not seemed urgent at first. By 1892, however, with many of the British elite who were ruling Egypt having been classically trained, and with large European colonies planted there, it was time for a Greco-Roman museum. In Italy, the upper classes had been mining the ancient Roman heritage for legitimacy since the Renaissance, and nationalists proud of the reunification of Italy during the nineteenth century renewed the impulse. Three successive Italian directors of Alexandria's Greco-Roman Museum staked out the cultural claims of their homeland on this former province of Rome.

The Coptic Museum of 1908 was the last of the four museums to be founded. The Protestants and Catholics of the West had long denounced the Coptic Church for heresy and for reflecting the presumed defects of its "Oriental" environment. But Western Christians-and later Jews-eager to "prove the Bible" in the face of secularism, scientism, and the higher criticism also turned to archaeology to bolster their case. They probed Palestine and the rest of the Fertile Crescent for supporting archaeological evidence, and could hardly ignore the land of the Nile, with its associations with Joseph, Moses, Jesus and Mary, and Saint Mark. Copts traced their church back to Mark and had practically invented Christian monasticism. By the 1890s, a few Europeans were turning their attention to Coptic art and architecture, and it was their enthusiasm that inspired Marcus Simaika to found the Coptic Museum. The museum was unusual, having an Egyptian founding director and being under communal Coptic rather than state control.

The primary purpose of this book is to write modern Egyptians into the histories of these four museums and the institutions and disciplines associated with them-Egyptology, classical studies, Coptic studies, and Islamic art and archaeology. Western histories of these disciplines usually downplay the imperial ethos of the day, and even those that highlight it relegate Egyptians to the margins. This book also examines more popular perceptions of the Egyptian past, in both Egypt and the West, tying them to issues of imperialism, nationalism, and Egyptian identity.

These developments in Egyptian archaeology and museology were part of a global process in which states and peoples, over the course of the nineteenth century, struggled to define themselves as modern nations. It made a vast difference whether or not one was a citizen of the Western great powers-Britain, France, Germany, and eventually the United States-which were caught up in the worldwide contest for political, economic, and cultural influence. In colonized lands such as Egypt and India, museums and archaeology became significant arenas in the struggle for national independence. In independent but semiperipheral countries such as Greece, Italy, imperial Russia, and Mexico, efforts to harness the study and display of the past to national purposes variously reflected features of archaeology in both the dominant and the colonized countries.

This book attempts synthesis on five levels. First, it juxtaposes the relatively familiar history of Western archaeologists with that of their neglected Egyptian counterparts. Even after Michel Foucault, Edward Said, and the revival of Antonio Gramsci, positivist assumptions about progressive, objective, "scientific" knowledge still underlie much writing about Egyptian archaeology. Champollion, Richard Lepsius, Auguste Mariette, Gaston-Camille-Charles Maspero, Adolf Erman, Flinders Petrie, Howard Carter, James Breasted, and George Reisner strut heroically across the stage. Egyptians flicker in the shadows as trusty foremen, loyal servants, laborers, tomb robbers, antiquities dealers, obstructionist officials, and benighted nationalists. Unconventional juxtapositions-Champollion and Rifaa al-Tahtawi, E.{ths} W. Lane and al-Tahtawi, Maspero and Ahmad Kamal, Max Herz and Ali Bahgat-are used in this book to challenge such narratives. The point is not to belittle Western achievements or to exaggerate similarities between Egyptians and Europeans but to point up the inequalities of power, challenge assumptions that "never the twain shall meet," and show that disciplinary histories should be more than Western monologues into Egyptian silence.

The first edition of the indispensable reference work Who Was Who in Egyptology (1951) omitted the pioneering Egyptian Egyptologist Ahmad Kamal altogether. The second and third editions of this British work made good the slight, but the third edition (1995) accorded Kamal a scant 20 lines to Maspero's 82 and Petrie's 134. Maspero and Petrie were indeed giants, but Kamal's low profile cries out for contextual explanation. Works such as Who Was Who tend to abstract science from its sociopolitical context and downplay national and personal rivalries. This makes it impossible to understand Egyptology as these scholars lived it. The reign of English, French, and German as the international languages of Egyptology was just one of many factors that gave Europeans an overwhelming advantage.

A second strand of synthesis is the insertion of the history of archaeology and museums into the mainstream history of modern Egypt.

Continues...


Excerpted from Whose Pharaohs? by Donald Malcolm Reid Copyright © 2001 by Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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