Egypt Exploration Fund   [Hrsg.]
Archaeological report: comprising the work of the Egypt Exploration Fund and the progress of egyptology during the year ... — 1895-1896

Seite: 38
DOI Artikel: 10.11588/diglit.10056.5
DOI Seite: 10.11588/diglit.10056#0050
Zitierlink: i
Lizenz: Creative Commons - Namensnennung - Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen

Progress of Egyptology.

any previous training for the work, but who are also destitute of any scientific
object whatever in the prosecution of their designs. Important sites in the Faiyum,
the site of Heliopolis, etc., have been looted by utterly uneducated persons, who
afterwards disposed of their ' finds ' as mere wares in the Oairene antiquity market.
In consequence of the imperfect supervision generally given to foreign excavators,
this progressive exhaustion of the Egyptian soil has assumed the dimensions of
positive treason to the cause of science. . . . The charge which I have made (viz.
that scientific reports of these excavations are rarely forthcoming) is in no wise
invalidated by the appearance of certain excellent reports and works on recent
excavations ; a strict reckoning should be exacted for every single excavation on
any Ancient Egyptian site whatever, that Science may at least keep account of her
irreparable losses in material for research.

" One very obvious injury resulting from hasty excavation is that inflicted on the
study of ancient topography by the obliteration of landmarks; the difficulties of the
subject being thereby immeasurably increased, and often, indeed, rendered insu-
perable, because every fixed point for a survey may in this way have been lost.
Who that has visited the Pyramids does not remember the dismal aspect presented
by a necropolis ransacked by treasure-hunters, ancient and modern ? The mole-
like work of the moderns far surpasses that of the ancients, both in destructiveness
and in extent: during the last year some 20,000 attempts have been made at burrow-
ing in the necropolis of Memphis alone, each attempt implying a pit six feet deep—
the scene of havoc is beyond description." . . .

"But the most deplorable consequence of the modern rage for excavation is the
careless and ignorant destruction of material for the study of natural history,
material all the more easily lost since great care and much expenditure of time are
necessary to its preservation. Generally speaking, the excavator assumes the right
of deciding as to the value or worthlessness of the natural products found, and
thus pronounces upon questions the full bearing of which it is at present utterly
impossible to estimate. Herein lies a great danger for the future of archaeology
and historical research, for surely it is easy to understand how the significance of
many things may be misapprehended and undervalued for the time, while under
other conditions they may be the means of solving great and important problems,
as the history of archaeology has more than once demonstrated. Take, for instance,
the case of the lake-dwellings, of bones found in caves, of flint flakes, and other
objects once lightly esteemed. The thoughtless destruction of these objects was
none the less equivalent to robbing students of a later day.

" The carelessness and neglect hitherto shown by Egyptian excavators with regard
to the bones of wild and domestic animals is particularly noticeable, and especially
in view of the fact that the attention of Egyptologists should surely have been
drawn to this subject by the fine drawings of animals on the walls of tombs dating
from the Old Kingdom. The loss thus brought about is one of which we are all the
more sensible because of the important bearing of facts concerning the introduction
and domestication of animals on ancient history. It is much to be desired that the
dates of introduction of the various species should be ascertained by means of excava-
tion. Exact knowledge of the history of domestic ruminants, for example, could not
fail to cast important light on that of the immigrations, intercourse and contiguity of
different races and nationalities in times preceding the earliest agricultural age;
and the question of the origin of the Ancient Egyptians might be settled by the
history of the domestication of the African wild ass. Whence, too, are the Zebu
cattle ? Are they of African or of East Indian origin ?

" Greater still have been the sins of the excavator against the botanist. Even in
loading ...