Between 1880 and 1980 British-led excavations resulted in the discovery of tens of thousands of ancient Egyptian objects. A large proportion of the recovered objects, however, were distributed to more than 300 different institutions around the world before they were fully documented or published. Artefacts of Excavation is an ambitious project currently tracing the movement of the excavated material so that these widely spread artefacts might be relocated and better understood. It is investigating for the first time the full scale of the international distributions and with the findings will create a centralised online resource for the relocation and re-contextualisation of dispersed collections.
Through detailed investigation of the finds distributions and analysis of the information collected, the project aims to answer the following research questions:
- What was the scale and scope of the distribution of finds from British-led excavations in Egypt between 1880 and 1980? Where are the excavated materials now?
- What do the finds distributions reveal about the changing relationship between museology, field archaeology and research practice between 1880 and 1980?
- How did the finds distributions impact on the negotiation of local, regional, national, international and colonial identities? What role did they have in shaping perceptions of Egyptian heritage?
- How were the excavated artefacts accommodated within different museums around the world? How did these local narratives relate to developments at a global scale?
This comprehensive study provides an opportunity to examine the new relationships that were created between objects, people and places as Egyptian artefacts were transported around the world. It aims to transform our understanding of the impact of the distributions more broadly, investigating their role in the development of archaeology and museology and in the construction of international views of ancient Egypt. The online resource that is currently being created will bring dispersed collections back together virtually to facilitate further curatorial work. It will provide a permanent resource that will enhance the potential for professional knowledge exchange, impacting on the continuing investigation of Egyptian sites and the public display of Egyptian collections worldwide.
Project team led by
Professor John Baines, University of Oxford
Dr Alice Stevenson, University College London
Liam McNamara, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Dr Emma Libonati, University College London
Massimiliano Pinarello, University College London
Alice Williams, University of Oxford
Sarah Glover, University of Oxford
This project has involved research into the histories of more than 350 individual institutions worldwide. There have been several key partnerships in this endeavour:
Artefacts of Excavation online resource
Project Conference 'The Object Habit: legacies of field work and the museum'. 7th–8th April 2017. Institute of Archaeology, University College London
Exhibition ‘Exporting Egypt: where? why? whose?’. 31st January–29th April 2017. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Follow the project @excavatedegypt