The history of Egyptian history

One of the most interesting points of discussion in this week’s lectures is the topic of cultural heritage.  The individual responsible for the development of the first cultural heritage laws in Egypt was a famous French Egyptologist August Mariette.  In class lecture Ethan proposed that Mariette is “arguably the most important figure in the history of Egyptian Archaeology” (9/17/2012).  The thing that struck me about this statement is the fact that Mariette is not even an Egyptian!  Given that Mariette is from France it is astounding that he had an influence on so many aspects of the preservation of Egyptian history.  Mariette shaped the way in which scholarly work was undertaken in the Nile Valley, he altered contemporary Egyptologist’s views of the material they worked with, and he dramatically changed the way Egypt preserved its past (Ethan Watrall class lecture 9/17/2012).  Mariette however, is not the only person who made significant contributions to Egyptian history; the list goes on to include Napolean with his development of a special Scientific and Artistic commission that accompanied his military force in the late 1700s, to Flinders Petrie who subsequently became the father of modern Egyptian Archaeology.  While these men all made phenomenal contributions to the study and preservation of Egypt’s past, the one thing that they all have in common and which should be pointed out is that none of them have Egyptian heritage.  This led me to consider how scholarly perceptions of the country of Egypt and Egyptian history may have been biased in the direction of European interests.  Without the efforts of these incredibly devoted men, the history of Egypt may have remained a largely uncharted territory.  European fascination with the country of Egypt began with a few elites and quickly spread throughout the scholarly ranks which led to the development and transformation of both Egyptology and Egyptian Archaeology.    While these fields of interest continue to evolve it is important to keep in mind their roots and foundations which began with a couple of men who travelled a long ways to explore and learn about Egypt and its past.