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Chapter 1 - The Prehistory of Egyptology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2021

Andrew Bednarski
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
Aidan Dodson
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Salima Ikram
Affiliation:
American University in Cairo
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Summary

The first to take an interest in ancient Egypt were, of course, the ancient Egyptians themselves. Prince Khaemwaset, fourth son of Rameses II and high priest of Ptah at Memphis, is often held to have been the first ‘Egyptologist’. He certainly carried out what now might be called ‘heritage’ activities in the Memphite necropolis, (allegedly) restoring monuments and carving large texts identifying their owners on the exteriors of certain examples, including the pyramids of Unas, Userkaf, Menkaure, Djoser, Sahure, Isesi and Senwosret III, as well as the mastaba of Shepseskaf and the sun temple of Niuserre. The prince also dedicated an ancient statue of the Fourth Dynasty prince Kawab in the temple at Memphis. On the other hand, while Khaemwaset was seemingly conserving the memory and importance of these structures, other monuments (including those ancillary to the pyramids in question) were being exploited as stone quarries for his father’s projects. Indeed the ‘labelling’ may well have been a direct result of the demolitions and resulting loss of any external means of identification of the pyramids’ owners. The salvage of material from ancient monuments was of course a phenomenon stretching back into the earliest times, and would continue into the nineteenth century ad.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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