Auguste Mariette

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Auguste Mariette
Auguste Mariette photography.jpg
Mariette by Nadar, ca.1861
BornFrançois Auguste Ferdinand Mariette
(1821-02-11)11 February 1821
Boulogne-sur-Mer
Died18 January 1881(1881-01-18) (aged 59)
Nationality French
Occupation Egyptologist

François Auguste Ferdinand Mariette (11 February 1821 18 January 1881) was a French scholar, archaeologist and Egyptologist, and founder of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities (later Supreme Council of Antiquities).

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Egyptology Study of Ancient Egypt

Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, literature, religion, architecture and art from the 5th millennium BC until the end of its native religious practices in the 4th century AD. A practitioner of the discipline is an "Egyptologist". In Europe, particularly on the Continent, Egyptology is primarily regarded as being a philological discipline, while in North America it is often regarded as a branch of archaeology.

Supreme Council of Antiquities branch of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture

The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) was a department within the Egyptian Ministry of Culture from 1994 until January 2011, when it became an independent ministry, the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA). It was the government body responsible for the conservation, protection and regulation of all antiquities and archaeological excavations in Egypt.

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Early career

He was born in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where his father was town clerk. Educated at the Boulogne municipal college, where he distinguished himself and showed much artistic talent, he went to England in 1839 when eighteen as professor of French and drawing at a boys' school at Stratford-upon-Avon. In 1840 he became pattern-designer to a ribbon manufacturer in Coventry, but he returned the same year to Boulogne, and in 1841 took a degree at the University of Douai. Mariette proved to be a talented draftsman and designer, and he supplemented his salary as a teacher at Douai by giving private lessons and writing on historical and archaeological subjects for local periodicals. [1]

Boulogne-sur-Mer Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Boulogne-sur-Mer, often called Boulogne, is a coastal city in Northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department of Pas-de-Calais. Boulogne lies on the Côte d'Opale, a touristic stretch of French coast on the English Channel between Calais and Normandy, and the most visited location in the region after Lille conurbation. Boulogne is its department's second-largest city after Calais, and the 60th-largest in France. It is also the country's largest fishing port, specialising in herring.

Stratford-upon-Avon Town in Warwickshire, England

Stratford-upon-Avon, commonly known as just Stratford, is a market town and civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon District, in the county of Warwickshire, England, on the River Avon, 91 miles (146 km) north west of London, 22 miles (35 km) south east of Birmingham, and 8 miles (13 km) south west of Warwick. The estimated population in 2007 was 25,505, increasing to 27,445 at the 2011 Census.

Coventry City and Metropolitan borough in England

Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England.

Meanwhile, his cousin Nestor L'Hote, the friend and fellow-traveller of Champollion, died, and the task of sorting his papers filled Mariette with a passion for Egyptology. Largely self-taught, he devoted himself to the study of hieroglyphics and Coptic. His 1847 analytic catalogue of the Egyptian Gallery of the Boulogne Museum got him a minor appointment at the Louvre Museum in 1849. [1]

Jean-François Champollion French classical scholar

Jean-François Champollion was a French scholar, philologist and orientalist, known primarily as the decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphs and a founding figure in the field of Egyptology. A child prodigy in philology, he gave his first public paper on the decipherment of Demotic in 1806, and already as a young man held many posts of honor in scientific circles, and spoke Coptic and Arabic fluently. During the early 19th-century French culture experienced a period of 'Egyptomania', brought on by Napoleon's discoveries in Egypt during his campaign there (1798–1801) which also brought to light the trilingual Rosetta Stone. Scholars debated the age of Egyptian civilization and the function and nature of hieroglyphic script, which language if any it recorded, and the degree to which the signs were phonetic or ideographic. Many thought that the script was only used for sacred and ritual functions, and that as such it was unlikely to be decipherable since it was tied to esoteric and philosophical ideas, and did not record historical information. The significance of Champollion's decipherment was that he showed these assumptions to be wrong, and made it possible to begin to retrieve many kinds of information recorded by the ancient Egyptians.

Coptic language Latest stage of the Egyptian language

Coptic, or Coptic Egyptian, is the latest stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century as an official language. Egyptian began to be written in the Coptic alphabet, an adaptation of the Greek alphabet with the addition of six or seven signs from Demotic to represent Egyptian sounds the Greek language did not have, in the 1st century AD.

Louvre Art museum and Historic site in Paris, France

The Louvre, or the Louvre Museum, is the world's largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris, France. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city's 1st arrondissement. Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square metres. In 2018, the Louvre was the world's most visited art museum, receiving 10.2 million visitors.

First trip to Egypt

Auguste Mariette (seated, far left) and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (seated, far right) with others during the monarch's visit to the Giza Necropolis at the end of 1871. Pedro II of Brazil in Egypt 1871.jpg
Auguste Mariette (seated, far left) and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (seated, far right) with others during the monarch's visit to the Giza Necropolis at the end of 1871.

Entrusted with a government mission for the purpose of seeking and purchasing the best Coptic, Syriac, Arabic and Ethiopic manuscripts for the Louvre collection so that it retained its then-supremacy over other national collections, [lower-alpha 1] he set out for Egypt in 1850. [1]

Syriac language dialect of Middle Aramaic

Syriac, also known as Syriac/Syrian Aramaic or Classical Syriac, is a dialect of Middle Aramaic. Having first appeared in the early first century CE in Edessa, classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the 4th to the 8th centuries, preserved in a large body of Syriac literature. Indeed, Syriac literature comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Syriac was once spoken across much of the Near East as well as Anatolia and Eastern Arabia.

After little success in acquiring manuscripts due to inexperience, to avoid an embarrassing return empty-handed to France and wasting what might be his only trip to Egypt, he visited temples and befriended a Bedouin tribe, who led him to Saqqara. The site initially looked "a spectacle of desolation...[and] mounds of sand" (his words), but on noticing one sphinx from the reputed avenue of sphinxes, that led to the ruins of the Serapeum at Saqqara near the step-pyramid, with its head above the sands, he gathered 30 workmen. Thus, in 1851, he made his celebrated discovery of this avenue and eventually the subterranean tomb-temple complex of catacombs with their spectacular sarcophagi of the Apis bulls. Breaking through the rubble at the tomb entrance on November 12, he entered the complex, finding thousands of statues, bronze tablets and other treasures, but only one intact sarcophagus. He also found the virtually intact tomb of Prince Khaemweset, Ramesses II's son.

Saqqara village in Giza Governorate, Egypt

Saqqara, also spelled Sakkara or Saccara in English, is a vast, ancient burial ground in Egypt, serving as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara features numerous pyramids, including the world-famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastabas. Located some 30 km (19 mi) south of modern-day Cairo, Saqqara covers an area of around 7 by 1.5 km.

Sphinx mythological creature

A sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion.

The Serapeum of Saqqara is a serapeum located north west of the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, a necropolis near Memphis in Lower Egypt. It was a burial place of Apis bulls, sacred bulls that were incarnations of the ancient Egyptian deity Ptah. It was believed that the bulls became immortal after death as Osiris Apis, a name that appears in Coptic as ⲟⲩⲥⲉⲣϩⲁⲡⲓ, Userhapi, which was borrowed in Greek as Σέραπις, Serapis, in the Hellenistic period.

Accused of theft and destruction by rival diggers and by the Egyptian authorities[ citation needed ], Mariette began to rebury his finds in the desert to keep them from these competitors. Instead of manuscripts, official French funds were now advanced for the prosecution of his researches, and he remained in Egypt for four years, excavating, discovering and despatching archaeological treasures to the Louvre, [1] following the accepted Eurocentric convention. However, the French government and the Louvre set up an arrangement to divide the finds 50:50, so that upon his return to Paris 230 crates went to the Louvre (and he was raised to an assistant conservator), but an equal amount remained in Egypt.

Director of Antiquities

A statue of Auguste Mariette in his home city of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Auguste Mariette statue, Boulogne-sur-Mer.jpg
A statue of Auguste Mariette in his home city of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

However, unsatisfied with a purely academic role after his discoveries at Saqqara (he said "I knew I would die or go mad if I did not return to Egypt immediately"), after less than a year he returned to Egypt on the insistence of the Egyptian government under Sa'id of Egypt, who in 1858 created the position of conservator of Egyptian monuments for him. [2]

Moving with his family to Cairo, his career blossomed into a chronicle of unwearying exploration and brilliant successes:

In 1860 alone, Mariette set up 35 new dig sites, whilst attempting to conserve already-dug sites. His success was aided by the fact that no rivals were permitted to dig in Egypt, a fact that the British (who had previously had the majority of Egyptologists active in the country) and Germans (who were politically allied with the country's Ottoman rulers) protested at as a 'sweetheart deal' between Egypt and France. Nor were Mariette's relations with the Khedive always stable. The Khedive, like many potentates, assumed all discoveries ranked as treasure and that what went to the museum in Cairo went only at his pleasure. Even early on, in February 1859, Mariette dashed to Thebes to confiscate a boatload of antiquities from the nearby tomb of Queen Ahhotep I that were to have been sent to the Khedive.

In 1867, he returned to oversee the ancient Egyptian stand at the Exposition Universelle, to a hero's welcome for keeping France pre-eminent in Egyptology. In 1869, at the request of the Khedive, he wrote a brief plot for an opera. The following year this concept, worked into a scenario by Camille du Locle, was proposed to Giuseppe Verdi, who accepted it as a subject for Aida . [lower-alpha 2] For Aida, Mariette and Du Locle oversaw the scenery and costumes, which were inspired by the art of Ancient Egypt. The premiere of Aida was originally scheduled for February 1871, but was delayed until 24 December 1871, due to the siege of Paris at the height of the Franco-Prussian War (which trapped Mariette with the costumes and scenery in Paris). The opera met with great acclaim.

Mariette was raised successively to the rank of bey and pasha, and European honors and orders were bestowed on him. [1]

In 1878, his museum was ravaged by floods, which destroyed most of his notes and drawings. By the spring of 1881, prematurely aged and nearly blind, Mariette arranged for the appointment of the Frenchman Gaston Maspero (a linguist rather than an archaeologist, who he had met at the Exposition in 1867), to ensure that France retained its supremacy in Egyptology in Egypt, rather than an Englishman.

Death

He died in Cairo and was interred in a sarcophagus which is on display in the Garden of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. [4]

The bust of other famous Egyptologists, including Charles Wycliffe Goodwin, have been placed on a semi-circular memorial around the sarcophagus.

Legacy

Though not all his discoveries were thoroughly published, the list of his publications is a long one.

Publications

Notes

  1. Their acquisition by national and private collections was then a competitive endeavour - the English had the advantage of being able to pay higher prices, although that did not prevent ruthlessness and ambition by all sides.
  2. The Khedive had asked Verdi to compose an ode in honour of the opening of the Suez Canal and the new Royal Opera House in Cairo in November 1869, but the composer declined. The Opera House opened with a performance of Rigoletto.

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Mariette, Auguste Ferdinand François". Encyclopædia Britannica . 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 716.
  2. Karabell, Zachary (2003). Parting the desert: the creation of the Suez Canal. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 150. ISBN   0-375-40883-5.
  3. Egyptsites.co.uk Archived November 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine .
  4. Whose Pharaohs?: Archaeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I (2002), by Donald Malcolm Reid, published by Dar El Kutub

See also