Sunday, July 10, 2011

Page 31: Rediscovery in Earnest: Scholars and Scientists

Title page from the Description de L'Egypte.
which was the first modern scholarly
attempt of the systematic recording
of Egypt's monuments.
<<Page 30...
To say that Napoleon's Expedition was a turning point in the rediscovery of ancient Egypt is an understatement. Napoleon's scholars systematically studied and recorded monuments and artifacts in a manner which was truly unprecedented. For the first time, whole temples were measured, planned and painstakingly depicted in carefully executed drawings in 1802, the artist and diplomat Vivant Denon who accompanied the expedition published a succinct single volume account with records and sketches of temples and other monuments as far south as the area of the first cataract, and this was followed, between 1809 and 1830, by the 36 volumes of the official Description de I'Egypte. This work awakened nothing short of a mania for all things Egyptian and adventures, antiquarians, artists and scholars began to travel to Egypt in increasing numbers. So, eventually, did collectors and the agents of European museums and libraries who began to purchase large quantities of antiquities. The Great Temple at Abu Simbel was rediscovered by J.I. Burckhardt in 1813 and opened by the famous procurer of antiquities Giovanni Belzoni (1778 - 1823) in 1817 as part of this intense period of exploration.