Indiana Jones is back in the news for the latest movie of the saga released in theaters. And his figure is once again generating debate, especially among archaeologists, since he is more of a treasure hunter than a scientist. For this reason, we have proposed to write an article about the great archaeologists of Egypt, those who with their work and contributions contributed to the foundation of Egyptology and to awaken the passion for Ancient Egypt, which still moves the masses today.
He was not an archaeologist, but a historian and linguist. But he deserves to be in first place because he is considered the ‘father of Egyptology‘ for his great contribution, which changed our vision of Ancient Egypt: the decipherment of the hieroglyphic writing. He did so thanks to the Rosetta Stone in 1822, now in the British Museum. For this reason, Jean-François Champollion is an institution in France, even giving his name to a university center.
If there is a figure that comes close to the idea of the Indiana Jones character, it would perhaps be that of Howard Carter. This British archaeologist became famous for the discovery in 1922 of Tutankhamun’s tomb, one of the most spectacular and sumptuous, which can now be seen mainly in the Great Egyptian Museum at Giza. However, there are also many shadows over this discovery, with suspicions that he removed numerous pieces from the tomb. Therefore, in Carter we find the combination of archaeologist and treasure hunter that we also find in Steven Spielberg’s character, played by Harrison Ford.
Fortunately, by the time Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb, Egyptology had already taken another direction, more oriented towards conservation and scientific research. And a good exponent of this was Auguste Mariette, considered one of the great archaeologists of Egypt. This Frenchman contributed to the excavation of temples such as Edfu, but also from the offices, as he was the founder of the Boulaq Museum, considered the direct predecessor of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Ernesto Schiaparelli, probably one of the most renowned figures in Italian archaeology, worked along the same lines as Mariette and is recognized as such by the Egyptian Museum of Turin, the most important museum in this field outside Egypt. He directed excavations at numerous sites in the country and, above all, he did so with a very modern concept of archaeology, always with a camera as part of his work equipment to document every step taken with meticulous care. His appointment as a senator in the 1920s was a sign of the wide recognition he gained in his time.
Zahi Hawass is probably the reference figure in Egyptology today. And he is so not only because he is an Egyptian, but also because of his combative character and vindicating spirit. Some of his major requests are the return of the Rosetta Stone or the bust of Nefertiti to Egypt. His career as an archaeologist and anthropologist led him to become Minister of Antiquities, leaving office on charges of corruption, of which he was later acquitted. Today, he is an influential figure in the world of heritage conservation, disseminator and head of international archaeological centers.
Like these five great Egyptologists and archaeologists of Egypt, there are many others who have contributed to deciphering the enigmas of that ancient civilization, which continues to attract millions of travelers from all over the world every year. And for sure, during your trip to this country, you will see them at work in situ.