Mariette Pasha: a Frenchman to create the Antiquities Service of Egypt

Mariette Pasha: a Frenchman to create the Antiquities Service of Egypt

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Home ›Studies› Mariette Pasha: a Frenchman to create the Antiquities Service of Egypt

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Title: Louqsor. General view [with Auguste Mariette posing].

Author : BANVILLE Aymard de (1837 - 1917)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 18.8 - Width 25.2

Technique and other indications: Taken fromPhotographic album of the mission carried out in Egypt by Viscount Emmanuel de RougéNo. 47.1863-1864 Albumen print from collodion glass negative.

Storage place: Institute Library website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Institut de France) - Gérard Blot website

Picture reference: 1863-1864. Plate 47 / 08-502341

Louqsor. General view [with Auguste Mariette posing].

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Institut de France) - Gérard Blot

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Mariette and the safeguard of Egyptian Antiquities

In 1857, the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette (1821-1881), assistant curator at the Louvre museum, very concerned about the fate of the archaeological remains of Egypt, met Pasha Mohammed Saïd (1854-1863) through Ferdinand from Lesseps. After the Egyptian expedition of Bonaparte (1798-1801) and the deciphering of hieroglyphics by Champollion (1790-1832), France continues to play a leading role in the field of Egyptology.

From October 1863 to June 1864, Viscount Emmanuel de Rougé (1811-1872), honorary curator of Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre museum and professor of Egyptian archeology at the Collège de France, undertook an official mission to Egypt to decipher hieroglyphic texts . He is accompanied by his son Jacques and a friend of the latter, Viscount Aymard de Banville (1837-1917), an amateur photographer.

Image Analysis

Mariette and the French expedition of Emmanuel de Rougé

Ismail Pasha, who succeeded Saïd Pasha, supports the expedition and lends them a steamboat with which they reach Thebes, in Upper Egypt.

Mariette then took care of various excavations, including those of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari, on the west bank of the Nile, near Thebes. It is there that Banville photographs him, posing in profile and wearing his tarbouche, with, as a background, the river and the temple of Louqsor, then silted up.

The photographs are gathered in an album and published in Paris in 1865. The one with Mariette is entitled "general view" of Louqsor. Rougé reads the caption as follows: “This view captures the entire layout of the temple; at the entrance, we see, on the left, the large pylon, above which appears the point of the obelisk. Behind the pylon, a mosque has been built. We then see what remains of the columns supporting the various rooms that preceded the sanctuary. This ends the temple to the south; it is still partly covered by houses. "


French supremacy in Egyptology

Rougé was one of the first to understand the value of photography in archeology. It allows the texts of the walls of monuments to be reproduced quickly and faithfully, thus avoiding tedious reading by hand. Seeking absolute precision, Banville used, for the first time in Egyptology, negatives on wet collodion glass plate, despite their cost (which he had to largely bear) and despite the heat and the sandy winds that complicated the use of ether. According to Rougé, Banville “knew how to render the figures with all the finesse of the modeling, the views of the monuments with halftones and the truth of the perspective, and the inscriptions with a clarity of which we had not yet seen an example. in photographs brought back from Egypt ”.

In 1863, at the time of the shooting, Mariette saw his curatorial efforts culminate in the opening to the public of the Boulaq museum, the first establishment of this type in the Middle East for which he published a catalog in French and in Arabic which lists 22,000 objects.

Mariette had been in Egypt since 1849. He had come to this country when the Louvre museum commissioned him to acquire manuscripts in Christian monasteries, but he used the money to undertake excavations. He then discovered the Serapeum of Memphis (necropolis dedicated to the god Apis), rich in archaeological material (including the Crouching scribe du Louvre) and historical information. He then undertook other excavations, notably in the area of ​​the Sphinx in Giza.

In 1857, faced with the richness of the remains in Egypt and the difficulties posed by their conservation, Mariette appealed to Saïd Pasha: "It behooves us to carefully watch over the monuments. In five hundred years, will Egypt still be able to show the scholars who visit it these as we find them today? "

Appointed the following year as head of the new department in charge of antiquities, Mariette undertook the first scientific excavations of most of the country's major archaeological sites. This pioneer of militant archeology died in Cairo in 1881 and is today buried in front of the city's Egyptian Museum.

  • archeology
  • Egypt
  • Mariette (Augustus)
  • France secondary school


A century of French excavations in Egypt: 1880-1980, on the occasion of the centenary of the Cairo School IFAO, catalog of the exhibition of the Musée d'Art et d'Essai - Palais de Tokyo, Paris, May 21-October 15, 1981, Cairo-Paris, I.F.A.O.-Louvre Museum, 1981. Élisabeth DAVID, Mariette Pasha. 1821-1881, Paris, Pygmalion, 1994.

To cite this article

Guillaume NICOUD, "Mariette Pasha: a Frenchman to create the Antiquities Service of Egypt"

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