Archaeological reports can be enlightening resources for the history of archaeology. These come in a variety of contexts – you can see British archaeologist John Garstang's interim field reports, handwritten with captioned photographs included, in the "Egypt in Reading" exhibition. These were composed for his funders, sent to Britain from Egypt, and circulated.
Flinders Petrie (and later Hilda Petrie), too, produced field reports from his excavations in Egypt (called Journals) which were circulated – the Griffith Institute has been digitising these, and you can see the lists of people to whom these reports were sent.
I've been recently looking through the journal published by the Egyptian Antiquities Service – the Annales du Service des Antiquites. This journal features reports on the work of the Service and on other excavations being undertaken in Egypt in three languages: predominately French, but also English and German (depending on the author in question).* Some of the issues are (thankfully) online, and they provide important details on the work of the Service and, critically, the individuals who contributed to that work. This includes not only the Egyptian and foreign inspectors working for the Service, but also their contacts: other officials and experts (some Egyptian); Egyptian foremen (referred to in late 19th century English and French as "rais" or "reis", in Egyptian Arabic رياس transliteration roy yas) working on excavations; independent excavators; Egyptian night guards for villages/sites (referred to in late 19th century English and French as "g[h]afir" plural "ghofera", in Egyptian Arabic غفير); and experienced porters.
As an experiment, I went through the first volume of the Annales (1900) and came up with a list of individuals mentioned by name. The names and references to work yield an illuminating snapshot of the Department's activities at the end of the 19th century. Some of these individuals are more well known than others - links, where possible, to biographies are provided, and references to specific areas of work as mentioned in the reports are given. The diversity of people listed is remarkable. A selection follows:
- Victor Loret, Director of the Antiquities Service (1897-1899)
- Gaston Maspero, Director of the Antiquities Service (1899-1914)
- Mohammed Effedi Chaban, Inspector at Rodah for the Service, who supervised Farag Ismail and Yassa Tadros's excavations at Deir el Aizam (see below)
- Georges Daressy, working for the Egyptian Museum
- Georges Legrain, designated conservator for the Antiquities Service at Karnak
- George Willoughby Fraser, engineer working for the Egypt Exploration Fund
- Percy Newberry, excavator for the Egypt Exploration Fund
- Claudius Labib, expert in Coptic history and language
- Alessandro Barsanti, Conservator/Restorer for the Antiquities Service at Saqqara
- Jacques de Morgan
- Mohammed Dohair, working with Daressy and Barsanti for the Museum at excavations of the necropolis at Meir and continued the excavations after Daressy and Barsanti left
- Ali a El Sabah, ghafir غفير at Meir who reports on tombs
- Fouli Abd el Kafi, رياس roy yas for the tomb of Pepi-Ankh excavations, Meir, with Daressy leading excavations during a painted wooden statue of Pepi-Ankh and other figurines were discovered
- Eugene Grebaut
- Mohammad Chain, Inspector of Antiquities who worked at Dendereh in 1897
- Farag Ismail
- Yassa Tadros, Tadros and Ismail applied to the Service to excavate necropolis at Deir el Aizam, near Asyut. Ismail stopped after a short time, Tadros continued without him.
- Sobbi Effendi Artif, translator into French of Chaban's Arabic-language report on excavations at Deir El Aizam
- Mahmoud Bey Fahmy, engineer of Luxor district, reporting on the 3 October 1899 disaster at Karnak, during which columns at the temple of Amun collapsed
- Ch. Nicour Bey, Engineer in Chief to Egyptian State Railways, appointed by the Minister to survey the scene at Karnak.
- Youssef Ahmed, supervisor at Karnak who was at the scene of the disaster
- Ahmed Suleiman, ghafir غفير at Karnak who was at the scene of the disaster
- Mohammed Ahmed Abd-el-Rassoul, Valley of the Kings 'whistleblower' ("denonciateur"), Luxor
- Howard Carter, Inspector General in the Antiquities Service
- Jusef Ahmed El-Neggar, reporting to Carter the discovery of remains of granite statues in construction work on his house in Luxor (Carter's report on the matter indicates that payment was made to El-Negger for the destruction of the walls of his house during excavation to remove the statues).
- [William Compton, 5th] Marquis of Northampton, given authority to make soundings at Kom el-Ahmar, 1899
- Richard Chauvin, "European supervisor", working with Legrain on Karnak after 3 Oct 1899 disaster
- Baskharoune Abou Awad, chief porter ("chef portefaix") for above work
- Hassan Abbati, chief digger ("chef terrassier") for above work
- Mohammed Marzouk, writer ("écrivain") for above work
- Ibrahim Ismain, writer ("écrivain") for above work
- Alfonso Maniscalco Bey, architect in chief, Ministry of Public Works, advising on Karnak
- [George] Somers Clarke, advising on Karnak
- Perry, director general of civil buildings, advising on Karnak
- F. Ehrlich, German engineer working on Assuan barrage construction, advising on Karnak
- Khalifa, رياس roy yas working with Barsanti at Saqqara
- Khalil Mohammed,رياس roy yas working with Barsanti at Saqqara
- Roubi, رياس roy yas working with Barsanti at Saqqara
- Mahmoud, son of رياس roy yas Khalifa, working with Barsanti at Saqqara
- Alfred Lucas, chemist for the Antiquities Service
Several projects are now focused on making the role of Egyptians in archaeological excavations more visible. The Abydos Temple Archive project is currently cataloguing and digitising a large cache of important records of the Egyptian Antiquities Service between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. These highlight the roles of a number of Egyptian inspectors, guards and rais who worked for the Service, who are (for the most part) totally unrepresented in 'Western' histories of Egyptology. Many of these records are Arabic, which is another hurdle for researchers (like me) who can't read Arabic (the project is – thankfully – translating the records into English).
Two other recent projects are engaging actively, in different ways, with the history of Egyptians in Egyptian archaeology. In "Hands that Excavated a Civilization" The Place and the People project has published several Facebook posts (in both Arabic and English) profiling Egyptians who excavated with foreign archaeologists.** The Egypt's Dispersed Heritage project is working with Egyptian comic artists to create new interpretations of the colonial legacies of archaeology in Egypt. These are being produced as vibrant comics in Egyptian Arabic drawing on and from modern Egyptian popular culture and aimed at Egyptians.***
A special thank you to Heba Abd El Gawad for contributing the Egyptian Arabic terms incorporated into this piece!
Bierbrier, Morris. 2019. Who Was Who in Egyptology. (5th edn) London: Bloomsbury.
Doyon, Wendy, 2015. On Archaeological Labor in Modern Egypt. In William Carruthers (ed). Histories of Egyptology: Interdisciplinary Measures. (pp. 141-156). Routledge: New York and Abingdon.
Ministry of Public Works. 1900. ANNALES DU SERVICE DES ANTIQUITÉS DE L'EGYPTE (Vol 1). Cairo: Institut français d'archéologie orientale du Caire.
Petrie, W. M. Flinders. 1892. Addenda to Baedeker's Vocabulary. Ten Years Digging in Egypt. London: Religious Tract Society.
Reid, Donald. 2002. Whose Pharaohs? Archaeology, Museums and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War 1. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
* I must acknowledge Google Translate here; without it this would have been a much more tricky task!
** see the recent recorded lecture
*** see also the recent recorded lecture