The Intellectual development of Egyptology and popular perceptions of Egypt, 1780-1880

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Archaeology

Abstract

European interest in ancient Egypt has been almost continuous since the Roman Empire, but has passed through various phases of renewed interest, notably in the Renaissance and following the Napoleonic expedition of 1798/99, which led to the development of Egyptology as an academic discipline. The literature on the history of Egyptology has concentrated on 'achievements', such as the decipherment of hieroglyphic, and the 'discovery' of sites and artefacts (with an emphasis on 'great' discoveries) or on 'Egyptomania'. More recent studies have focused on the presentation of Egyptian artefacts in museums and the 'creation' of a European view of Egypt, and on the development of Egyptology as an academic discipline framed within the discourse on colonialism and imperialism. Little has been written on the intellectual development of the subject or the dissemination of knowledge to a wider public. This study addresses the intellectual basis of the discipline around 1800, and its responses to direct contact with the country and its monuments; the interest in and impact of the decipherment of hieroglyphic, and the subsequent intellectual development of the academic discipline in (largely) Western Europe within the broader changes in understanding the ancient world at the time. It examines the influences of other emergent disciplines, theories, and methods of research in the nineteenth century.

The research also enquires into what the general public's perceptions of Egypt, and their interest in the country, were. The late 18th century perception of Egypt (exemplified in works such as Mozart's 'Magic Flute') was deeply influenced by the esoteric tradition and Freemasonry. The study asks to what extent did the opening of Egypt to visitors, the access to many Egyptian antiquities in the European museum collections, the decipherment of hieroglyphic, and the religious revivals of the 19th century affected views of, and interest in, Egypt? How did the newly available archaeological material, academic developments in other disciplines, and the religious background affect the way in which Egyptologists selected and interpreted the evidence available? Also, to what extent did the material newly available and understood alter the presentation of Egypt? The paintings of, for example, Edward Poynter and Lawrence Alma Tadema incorporated archaeological material that could be seen in the British Museum, and such paintings were later engraved as illustrations for Bibles. Similarly, Verdi's opera Aida was based upon a plot-line by the Egyptologist Auguste Mariette which was loosely derived from a newly discovered hieroglyphic inscription: it differs in many ways from Mozart's in its presentation of a vision of Egypt (even if neither work is truly about Egypt).

The research will consider reception theory as it has been used in classical studies, and how this can provide valuable approaches for Egyptology. The research does not ignore the imperial and colonial background to the development of Egyptology, which have been extensively examined, but attempts to expore the specific ideas and stimuli to the discipline's development.

Planned Impact

The research can be disseminated to the benefit of the academic community and the wider public through a range of means and organisations.

Specific elements of the research, notably that involving travellers, can add greater detail or new information to museum exhibits and records on the acquisition, provenance and context of individual artefacts. This applies, for example, to coffins in the Swansea, Edinburgh and Exeter collections: the link between these emerged in a piece of specific research that ultimately contributed to the formulation of this research project.

One possible use of the research relates to the William Bankes Egyptian Collection displayed at Kingston Lacy, Dorset. This is a very popular National Trust property, but the Egyptian collection is at present a rather underused resource. The collection includes an obelisk (in the grounds) that was of key importance in the decipherment of hieroglyphic. The rich collection of Bankes's written material and drawings could be used to explain the story of decipherment and development of British interest in Egypt. The links between Bankes, Henry Salt and Giovanni Belzoni could be emphasised along with the role of Salt and Belzoni in the aquisition of the Egyptian artefacts that form the basis of the British Museum's Egyptian collection.

Information on individual travellers, who came from a range of backgrounds - army and navy officers, diplomats, missionaries, architects, artists, politicians and the indpendently wealthy - can be disseminated through the ASTENE (Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East) website, Bulletin, Study Days and Conferences. ASTENE has an international membership, with a wide range of interests, from archaeology to literature. These travellers and the development of Egyptology as an academic discipline are also subjects of interest to the local Egyptology and related societies in Britain: these number nearly forty, some with a membership of over 100 and hold regular lectures and study days.

Publications

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Morkot RG (2013) 'Barry, Baillie, Godfrey and Wyse.' in Bulletin of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East

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Morkot Rg (2016) Once again, the elusive John Fuller: a mystery solved? in Bulletin of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East

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Morkot Rg (2016) Belzoni, Freemasons, and the Sarcophagus of Sety I in Bulletin of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East

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Morkot RG (2013) 'The "Irish lad" James Curtin, "servant" to the Belzonis.' in Bulletin of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East

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Morkot Rg (2016) More on Clubbable Gentlemen in Bulletin of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East

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Morkot RG (2013) Egyptian Oedipus. Athanasius Kircher and the Secrets of Antiquity. By Daniel Stolzenberg. in Bulletin of the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East

 
Description The research has in many ways challenged the orthodox view presented by Egyptology of the early years of the subject's development, which promotes a rather over-positive assessment of a process that was far more complex, with extensive debates and arguments.
Exploitation Route I am currently discussing a small travelling exhibition with Dorset Archives (who wish to promote the Bankes Archive, and particularly the travels of William Bankes in Egypt and the Near East), Kingston Lacy House (Bankes residence, NT); Bristol Museum (which holds relevant material), and with the National Trust to relate the travels to other contemporaries who Bankes met and travelled with. These properties include Pollock House, Glasgow; Castle Coole, Northern Ireland; Lyme Park, Cheshire; and Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. This plan was part of initial proposal (as noted above). There is also a potential to link with the British Museum and other museum collections.
Sectors Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description So far, they have been used in lectures to a range of different groups: 'amateur' and professional Egyptologists, archaeologists and historians; and interested public who live near the relevant National Trust properties. They have also been published in a number of articles and notes with wide distribution, and on the web. The research has also informed by undergraduate teaching.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Chesterfield Dayschool 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Part of a day school on travellers in Egypt in the 19th century

interest in the subject
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Conference Exeter 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact ASTENE Conference XI, University of Exeter, July 2015 'Thomas Legh and the first encounters with the temples of Nubia.'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Joint ASTENE-EES Study weekend Kingston Lacy and Dorchester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The day stimulated a large amount of interest in the Bankes Archive and collections at Kingston Lacy and in Dorset History Centre

Enabled me to pick up on the initial links with Kingston Lacy House and the Dorset History Centre that had not been possible during the time of the grant due to staff illness.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Lecture Bournemouth - Wessex Egyptology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Numerous questions and interest in subject matter

Interest in publications
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Lecture Friends of the Petrie Museum UCL 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Mixed audience of professional Egyptologists and interested public: stimulated interest and questions on the issues raised

requests for and offers of further information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Lecture Glasgow - Egyptology Scotland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interest in local relevance: lecture held at the Burrell Art Gallery and part of subject was Pollock House which is adjacent

Questions and interest in subject matter
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Lecture Manchester Anicent Egypt Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Questions and discussion in response to local relevance

Request for popular articles for Ancient Egypt Magazine
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Lecture Taunton Egyptian Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Questions and interest in the subject and issues

Interest in future publications
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Lecture WImborn Priest's House Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This proved very popular, with an audience of between 80 and 90 people. There were many questions and the lecture increased awareness of the Archive and the activities of William Bankes in Egypt and the Near East. It stimulated a lot of questions and generated a lot of interest.

Stimulated interest in my own project and in those of Dorset Archives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Public lecture Southampton 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk to Egyptology Society in Southampton; provoked interest and discussion

Request fdr further talk specifically on Sir Gardner WIlkinson
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012