Egyptology in the limelight

30-08-2015 10:17 AM

Mervat Ayad

The 11th International Congress of Egyptologists (ICE XI) has been running in Florence since 23 August and will conclude its activities tomorrow 30 August.

The Congress is organised by the International Association of Egyptologists (IAE), the Soprintendenza Archeologia della Toscana (Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo), CAMNES (Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies), the University of Florence (SAGAS department), and with the support of the Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici. It is an open forum for all branches of Egyptology and is accessible for junior and senior scholars.

Some 800 participants have been discussing topics that included animal mummies, ancient Egyptian vocabulary, and imperial cult temples.

Egyptian Minster of Antiquities Mamdouh al-Damati flew to Florence to give the opening speech at the Congress. He began by paying tribute to Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Assaad who was recently beheaded by ISIL in Syria.



Dr Damati reviewed the problems and risks that threaten Egyptian Antiquities, especially focusing on illegal trafficking. He said the Egyptian government was sparing no effort to deal with the problem, and was using its diplomatic clout on that score.  He stressed that the threat to Egyptian antiquities was not only a menace to Egyptian heritage but also to world heritage in its entirety. 

Dr Damati referred to the case of the sale by Northampton museum in the UK of the statue of Sekhem Ka, and the efforts made by the Egyptian and UK governments to halt the sale. The result was that the UK export ban on the statue was extended to 28 August.

The ancient Egyptians, Dr Damati said, could be considered the first ‘Egyptologists’. The Pharaoh Thutmoses IV excavated the sand that had over the years almost completely buried the Sphinx. He said he did that in response to an order he received in a dream, and left a panel describing the details of that dream.

Egyptologists in the middle ages contributed a lot to uncover the secrets of the ancient Egyptian civilisation, and in the 18th century, Napoleon’s scientists and scholars who accompanied his military campaign in Egypt in 1798 registered all they had learnt about Egypt in their epic tome, the Description de L’Egypt.

The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1822 was another rmilestone in the field of Egyptology, Dr Damati, reminded, since it allowed the decryption of its hieroglyphic codes.

Dr Damati welcomed the ICE’s decision to hold the 12th congress in Cairo. He called upon the Egyptologists present to come visit Egypt and see for themselves that it is a safe, pleasant place. He promised they would be allowed into all the archaeological sites free of charge.

Dr Damati applauded Italy’s celebration of 2015 as the year of Egyptian culture, saying it reflected the warm relations between the two nations.


Argentina and Japan

Another country that has been active in the Egyptology field is Argentina. The Argentine Embassy in Cairo is working on a booklet that details the work of Argentine Egyptologists during the 20th and 21st centuries. The 120-page booklet will come out in English and Spanish.

Dr Damati said that he had met Alberto Sergio, Argentina’s ambassador to Cairo, and that they explored the idea of holding an Egyptian antiquities exhibition in Argentina, as well as a series of public lectures and workshops on Egyptology there. “This would be the first ever exhibition of Egyptian antiquities in Latin America,” Dr Damati said. For his part, Ambassador Sergio expressed his happiness with the prospect, and revealed that Dr Damati was writing the preface to the booklet the Embassy was publishing.

A protocol has already been signed with Japan to hold an exhibition of Egyptian antiquities that would tour eight Japanese cities starting next October and till September 2017. The theme of the exhibition: Era of the Pyramid builders.

The exhibition will showcase 120 pieces of antiquity that will be insured at USD138,570,000. The pieces will include a statue of King Khafre who built the second of the three Giza Pyramids, a collection of statues of workers, servants, bakers and wine makers, a scribe, a model for a popular game, and a model of the sun boat.


Watani International

29 August 2015




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