Archaeology Of Ancient Egypt
World of Antiquity
Egyptian Archaeology Paper
Archeology is defined as the study of past cultures and extinct ways of life. In real terms this translates into exploring both above and below the surface of our earth to find what came before us. This is important for several factors, mainly that it allows us to step back in time to a place that is no longer accessible to us to experience firsthand. The extent to which we know our own history would be very limited and creditability would diminish among scholars who to this day debate over “hard facts”. Archaeologists are considered to be the scientists of the historical world. It is through archaeology we see the cultural evolution of man over time, the rise and fall of great ancient civilizations, the evolution of language from stone paintings to hieroglyphics to pictures used to depict stories and the history that specific culture choose to pass down, but most importantly archaeology reveals priceless information from history of entire civilizations that had thought to have been long forgotten in the sands of time.
If one was to choose archaeology as their profession they would have countless sites around the world to explore and unearth. However one stands alone; Egypt. Thought to be the cradle of civilization, not only is it the site of the earliest known hieroglyphics, but, also discovered through archeology is the fact that Egypt is one of the most advanced ancient civilizations with many questions that still baffle scholars and cause much debate amongst them to this day. From the Great Pyramids of the kings to the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut; the sands of Egypt have afforded us great treasure in terms of historical importance and still do to this day.
Unfortunately not all people in this world would be happy to see these priceless treasures in museums. They on the other hand would like to rape and pillage a pharaoh’s tomb and then turn around to sell it for a fraction of its price on the black market. These people are called ‘Tomb Raiders’ and have no remorse about what they do. However most of this was done within years of the burial leaving very little for today’s thieves; who have actually proven to be cooperative (after the fact of course) with leading authorities to unknown burial chambers still scattered throughout Egypt even today. For example, In 1876 several funerary objects along with papyri dating back to the XXI Dynasty surfaced, prompting an immediate investigation. A French archeologist by the name of Maspero had a suspect arrested and after “third degree methods” the suspect led Brugsch Bey, of the Service of Antiquities division of the Egyptian government to a small hole on a cliff which coincidentally was nearby to the Temple of Hatshepsut. Bey was regarded as a fearlessly enthusiastic about his work and lowered himself down, by rope, a forty foot dark shaft. What he found was a “catacomb crammed with Pharaohs” (“The Romance of Archaeology” pg 56). The Pharaohs he was “crammed” in with were in sarcophagi , used traditionally much like our coffins today except these were sheathed in gold and jewels which increased with a more powerful king. This was one of the first discoveries that led to the complete excavation of the “Valley of the Kings”. He was also personally responsible for the excavation of the temples which extended from Heliopolis, located at the top of the Nile where it meets the bottom of the Delta, all the way to Philae.
Archeologists saw this as a ‘golden pariah’ and flocked to Egypt in hopes to make their own discovery and in turn a name for themselves. Just as the archeologists came, the tombs came as well. There was one problem though, the mummies they were finding in these tombs were not coinciding with the supposed markings on the tombs themselves to identify mummy with tomb. That was until in 1898 M. Loret discovered “ The first Pharaoh ever found in his own tomb (pg 58)” which was the mummified body of Amenhotep II, the son of Thothmes III. Loret received funding from an American by the name of Mr. Theodore M. Davis through the Egyptian Service of Antiquities. It was this funding along with the discovery of Amenhotep II that gave Egyptian archeology the momentum it was so desperately lacking and allowed for many other excavations to be made possible. It was 1905 during this progressive time in Egyptian archaeology that Messrs, Davis, Maspero and Weigall found the tomb of Yuaa and his wife Tuaa who were father and mother of Queen Tyi. It was in this tomb that people really got an understanding of the value placed on their royalty. The tomb was full of riches from ancient Egypt, fully equipped with furniture and even a chariot, the thought behind this was to bury them with all the amenities you use daily except for the afterlife. This rare untouched and completely in tack tomb gave archaeologists like Mr. Davis the inspiration to go out and keep looking, and that he did. In 1906 he began his quest to find the tomb of Tutankhamen, a time when the thought of ancient Egyptian gods brought such things as curses to mind.
One of the most beautiful discoveries from the XII Dynasty is the “Treasure of Lahun”, discovered in 1914 by Flinders Petrie, “It comprised the complete jewelry outfit of Princess Sat-hathor-innut, probably the daughter of Senusert II of the XII Dynasty. We could compare this somebody famous in our culture. Simply finding the king and queens extremely elegant “toiletries”, serve as a reminder of how they were thought of and treated, like gods, a concept we are somewhat accustomed too, but not nearly anything close to the Egyptian beliefs that the Pharaoh was an incarnate. A concept we as a people might have a hard time believing if it were not for such strong evidence of such a advanced ancient civilization shown to us in part by these great men and women of Archaeology that made this possible for us to enjoy.
Starr, Chester G. A History of the Ancient World. New York: Oxford University Press,
Wilkinson, J. Gardner. The Ancient Egyptians: Their Life and Customs. 2 vols. London: