Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Page 33: Rediscovery in Earnest: Scholars and Scientists

<<Page 33...

Sir John Gardner Wilkinson
(1797-1875), depicted here in native
dress, conducted pioneering work in
the study of and recording of ancient
Egypt and its monuments between
1821 and 1856.

foremost among a number of other European scholars of this period was the Prussian Carl Richard Lepsius (1810 - 1884), whose 12-volume Denkmaeler aus Aegypten and  Aethiopien stands as the earliest reliable publication of a large number of ancient Egyptian temples and other monuments.

The complete recording of ancient Egyptian monuments was begun in the later 19th century by Johannes Dumichen (1833-1894) and Maxence de Rochemonteix (1849-1891). Although neither man was able to come close to fulfilling their ambitious goal, the idea was continued by Jacques de Morgan (1857-1924), who began a Catalogue des monuments and produced a complete and produced a complete publication of the temple of Kom Ombo, and by the Egypt Exploration Fund (later Society) of England, which initiated its Archaeological Survey of Egypt', resultig in much valuable recording. The Franco-Egyptian Center at Karnak also provides an example of excellent work does in a specific location.

The greatest advance in the recording of ancient Egyptian temples would come about, however, as a result of the vision and planning of the American archaeologist James Henry Breasted (1865-1935). Founder of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, Breasted organized the Institute's Epigraphic Survey of Egyptian Monuments ever made. He also developed his own methodology for the precise recording of texts and inscriptions on monuments (p. 241) whcih, in its essential form, is still in use today. Although interested in all aspects of Egyptology, breasted was especially fascinated with ancient Egyptian temples, and it was no coincidence that the first monument to receive the detailed attention of the Epigraphic Survey was the great mortuary temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu. Since then the Survery has turned its attention to a numer of other temples, continuing to produce complete documentation in the same painstaking tradition.

The Oriental Institute is only one academic institution which has worked in the temples of ancient Egypt. Throughout the 20th century scholars from other universities, museums and archaeological institutes in many countries, as well as those of Egypt itself, have laboured in the painstaking excavation, recording and reconstruction of the ancient temples Today, modern methods of scientific archaeology are being applied and we are in a position to understand these structures to a degree impossible in previous decades. But much remains to be learned, and much is only now coming to light. The story is a detailed and fascinating one which unfolds with the description of the various elements of the ancient Egyptian temple, the actual functioning of the temple institutions, and the history of the individual temples themselves.

The forecourt of the temple of Amun at Karnak in one of the British photographer Francois Frith's many views of ancient Egyptian temples sites. He made three expeditions to the country between 1856 and 1860