The birth of archaeology
In the shadow of the Sphinx
The pyramids, Sphinx and mummies would become proud symbols of Egypt’s magnificent history.
British naval supremacy was a thorn in the side of the French Emperor Napoleon’s subjugation of Europe. Attempting to sever Britain’s links with India, Napoleon invaded Egypt. He took with him a large team of scholars, who busied themselves exploring and documenting in meticulous detail the ruins of ancient Egypt. Military victory brought growing British influence in Egypt. French finds – including the Rosetta Stone – were handed over to Britain.

Italian, Austrian and German teams joined British and French scholars in exploring the land of the pharaohs. An endless stream of visitors flocked to Egypt, and many brought back souvenirs. Ancient Egypt was endlessly fascinating, becoming common knowledge among European publics. In Egypt itself, the pharaonic past became a source of national pride, and tourism a major source of income.
Egypt. Plan of the remains of an existing circus, near Alexandria.

Taken from Description de l'Egypte: Dessins Préparatoires

19th century

National Library of France , Paris, France

Artist: Charles-Louis Balzac

Napoleon took with him to Egypt (1798–1801) not only soldiers but also a large body of scientists, engineers and designers. Their task was to collect as much scientific information of all kinds as possible. The resulting publication, entitled Description of Egypt, or Collection of Observations and Research, was outstanding in quality. Between 1809 and 1826 a total of ten volumes of plates and nine volumes of texts appeared.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
The birth of archaeology
The formation of museums
Inspired by the past