Egyptian Archaeology

Egyptian Archaeology

The change concerns first of all the recognition itself of the existence within Egyptological studies of an Egyptian archeology as a discipline endowed with scientific, methodological and excavation techniques autonomy. Although the knowledge of Ancient Egypt in the last 150 years has inevitably passed through the excavation of great monuments and great necropolises, nevertheless archeology has always been seen above all in terms of the recovery of objects and written documents: in this it seemed certain indispensable, but scientifically less relevant than other aspects of Egyptological research.

When for a long time in other areas of the Mediterranean and the Near East, to mention only those contiguous to Egypt, archaeological research used the techniques of stratigraphic excavation that were becoming more and more refined and richer in results, in Egypt for a long time the excavation was seen only as an operation aimed at freeing the monuments from the sand and recovering objects of art or inscriptions. As far as the new status of Egyptian archeology, now accepted by almost all, or almost, the numerous missions that work in the country, has not yet received adequate academic recognition, however the adoption of the most refined excavation techniques has allowed the acquisition of data that for a long time have been inexorably lost and which today allow us to write a history of Ancient Egypt which is in some respects highly innovative.

The greatest novelty in an Egyptology that has long privileged – and in a certain way still favors – philology, that is the study of the countless written texts that Egyptian soil has come relentlessly returning, is the possibility of directly ‘overthrowing’ in history, archaeological data, without passing through philology. This acquisition proved to be fundamental for the reconstruction of those historical periods in which writing – written sources, in reality – is lacking, either because it had not yet been ‘invented’ or because it was still in an auroral phase of its existence., itself therefore the object of historical investigation in its becoming and not a source of events through the narrative,

This happened – but it is a phase of research still in progress and therefore susceptible of novelty in every moment of the field work both in the present and in the immediate future – essentially for the pre-dynastic and proto-dynastic period, until about the end of the II dynasty., and for the so-called Hyksos period, between the 17th and 16th centuries BC, when a foreign principality was established in the North, with its capital at Avaris. This period, traditionally characterized by the lack of written sources, opens a sort of parenthesis very difficult to fill and therefore represents a real anomaly in Egyptian history, certainly linked to a radical damnatio memoriae that struck the first foreign domination that Egypt had to suffer during its long history.

A second very important novelty of archaeological research is given by the extension of research to areas that had traditionally remained excluded from it or where it had had an absolutely marginal value. For a tradition justified by the peculiarities of the Egyptian soil and its internal geographical divisions, the excavations concerned, for the first 150 years of Egyptian archeology, above all the area between the royal necropolis of the Ancient Kingdom to the north and the extreme south of the country, and especially some areas of the Nile Valley that were privileged for the emergence of the great monuments of worship and necropolis. For Egypt 2002, please check

A very important reason was at the basis of this choice: the conditions of conservation of the ancient monuments in the Nile Valley were particularly favorable to obtaining important and immediate results. Nor can we censor, today, in the presence of a more refined idea of ​​archaeological research, this way of proceeding: there is no doubt that the great royal necropolises had to be excavated and the same can be repeated for the temples destined for the worship of the gods and for the other necropolises, scattered a little everywhere along the low hills that flank the river route to the east and west. And also the works of art that they concealed were evidently recovered: the awareness was less alive then that in this way privileged a historical image of the

Occasional and in any case modest, despite the often important results – think of the royal necropolis of Tanis -, were the excavations of the Delta, especially dedicated, at least initially, to finding traces of the path of the Exodus, and almost non-existent those in the external oases, or rather the oases that are located in a long line, with a south-north orientation, in the Libyan desert, where everything was limited to pioneering surface prospecting by the Egyptian archaeologist Ahmed Fakhri. A particular case was that of Fayyum, a semi-ioasis just over 90 km south-west of Cairo, where particular climatic conditions and rural landscape have allowed the conservation of vast urban areas, mostly from the Ptolemaic and Roman ages, all around the cultivated area.

The great novelty of Egyptian archeology lies in the fact that these traditionally neglected areas are now subjected to systematic excavations of great importance: the combination of two different but concurrent elements – the use of refined techniques and the investigation of little or no areas. explored – has meant that results of great importance were not long in coming and therefore opened a new season in our knowledge of Ancient Egypt.

But the panorama outlined above would not be complete if the latest addition to the specializations of Egyptian archeology were not mentioned, this truly unprecedented: underwater archeology. His privileged field of investigation concerns, of course, the seabed immediately in front of the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, especially the port of Alexandria and, at least in terms of design, Nelson Island in the Abukir Bay.

However, it should not be believed that traditional archaeological areas should be considered definitively exhausted and that they should therefore be abandoned in favor of those briefly described above. On the contrary, it must be said that some of the most important discoveries have been made in areas traditionally very excavated and which really seemed destined to give no more results, if not for some particular appreciable only by specialists. This depends not a little on the fact that often the investigation conducted in the field, even by archaeologists of great value such as the British William Matthew Flinders Petrie, was limited to the superficial layers, so that the lower and more ancient ones remained (and often remain) to be investigated., outside of those robbery excavations conducted at the end of the nineteenth century in the necropolis of Abydos,

In our review it will be convenient to start from these areas and continue our exposure from south to north according to a path that would not have displeased the ancient Egyptians.

Egyptian Archaeology

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