Imagining an Imperial Race: Egyptology in the Service of Empire Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East - Volume 24, Number 1, 2004, pp. 249-259. Paul Sedra Archaeology under the limelight is a new and rather bewildering experience for most of us. In the past we have gone about our business happily enough, intensely interested in it ourselves, but not expecting other folk to be more than tepidly polite about it, and now all of a sudden we find the world takes an interest in us, an interest so intense and so avid for details that special correspondents at large salaries have to be sent to interview us, report our every movement, and hide round corners to surprise a secret out of us. It is, as I said, a little bewildering for us, not to say embarrassing, and we wonder sometimes just exactly how and why it has all come about. We may wonder, but I think it would puzzle anyone to give an exact answer to the question. One must suppose that at the time the discovery was made the general public was in a state of profound boredom with news of reparations, conferences and mandates, and craved for some new topic of conversation. The idea of buried treasure, too, is one that appeals to most of us. Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, it is quite certain that, once the initial Times dispatch had been published, no power on earth could shelter us from the light of publicity that beat down upon us. We were helpless, and had to make the best of it. Howard Carter1 A scholar of no less distinction than the late Sir Richard Burton wrote the other day of Egypt as "the inventor of the alphabet, the cradle of letters, the preacher of animism and metempsychosis, and, generally, the source of all human civilization." This is a broad statement; but it is literally true. Hence the irresistible fascination of Egyptology— a fascination which is quite unintelligible to those who are ignorant of the subject. I have sometimes been asked, for instance, how it happens that I—erewhile a novelist, and therefore a professed student of men and manners as they are—can take so lively an interest in the men and manners of five or six thousand years ago. But it is precisely because these men of five or six thousand years ago had manners, a written language, a literature, a school of art, and a settled government that we find them so interesting. Ourselves the creatures of a day, we delight in studies which help us to realize that we stand between the eternity of the past and the eternity of the future. Amelia Edwards2 Howard Carter, the draughtsman-turned-Egyptologist who in November 1922 uncovered the virtually untouched tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, professed "bewilderment" at the public frenzy his discovery had spawned in Britain and the United States. He insisted in his 1923 account of the discovery that Egyptology was a "scientific" discipline, and that excavation, properly undertaken, was a methodical, painstaking and, frankly, rather esoteric and dull process, about which the public, prior to his discovery, could muster an attitude of only "tepid politeness."3 He assumed that a "bored" public had chosen to seize upon Egyptology for the moment given a lack of conversation topics, with images of long hidden "buried treasure" drifting through their minds—but that the fascination was indeed only a momentary one, a "fad" with no abiding roots. Ultimately, as the fascination faded, Egyptology would return to the proprietorship of the Egyptologists, the hardy, dedicated folk who had long remained "intensely interested" in the world of the ancient Egyptians, despite the painstaking, esoteric character of their discipline.4 The notion of Egyptology as a distinctly "scientific" discipline, the practice of which must remain reserved to the properly educated, is a potent one indeed, and continues to serve as justification for European "guardianship" of ancient Egyptian artifacts. Brian Fagan, author of The Rape of the Nile: Tomb Robbers, Tourists, and Archaeologists in Egypt, condemns the prevailing "restrictive" [End Page 249] policy of the Egyptian government in affording Western archaeologists permits for excavation upon Egyptian soil—a policy rooted, he claims, in a selfish nationalism. Fagan contrasts such a purportedly selfish attitude with that of the selfless turn-of-the-century excavators who pioneered Egyptology as a "scientific" discipline—foremost among them, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie.5 Fred Gladstone Bratton, author of A History of Egyptian Archaeology, argues that Petrie "transformed archaeology from an undocumented collection of antiquities to a deliberate reconstruction of history by the location of the artifacts." There were no ulterior motives propelling Petrie's research, according to Bratton. He was merely a faithful "scientist," for whom "a potsherd was as important as a pyramid in reconstructing Egyptian cultural history."6 Unfortunately, chroniclers of Egyptian archaeology have questioned the "scientific" pretensions of native Egyptologists to a far greater degree than they have questioned such pretensions among their European forbears, the purported pioneers of "scientific" Egyptology.7 Notably, Donald Reid has discussed how, during the "liberal era" of Egyptian history—the formative era of Egyptian nationalism in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s—"Pharaonic discourse redefined antiquities as sacred relics of a glorious past."8 During that era, the Egyptian Antiquities Service developed into an arena of fierce contest, as Egyptians struggled for control of the heritage of the nation. Reid points to the shift of the Service from the Ministry of Public Works to the Ministry of Education as indicative of the distinctly political import of Egyptology among Egyptian nationalists. As he notes, thenceforth, "schools would educate modern Egyptians about their pharaonic heritage."9 Such a focus upon Egyptian nationalists' appropriation of Egyptology as a symbolic means by which to bolster political agendas, although warranted, has tended to harden, in the absence of comparable questioning of European appropriations, the predominant view of "selfish" Egyptians "fiddling" with the "scientific" findings of "impartial" European Egyptologists.10 Both Benedict Anderson and Bernard Cohn have mounted noteworthy interrogations of European archaeologists' rhetoric of "scientific impartiality" in separate colonial contexts, Southeast Asia and India respectively.11 According to Anderson, reconstructions of monuments by colonial archaeological services in Southeast Asia served to place "the builders of the monuments and the colonial natives in a certain hierarchy." In the Dutch East Indies, colonial officials aimed to propagate the view that ancient monuments were the work not of the natives' descendants, but of "Indian immigrants"— that the natives were "racially distinct" from the Dutch East Indies' former inhabitants. In Burma, colonial officials emphasized the notion of decline—that the natives could not possibly achieve all that their ancestors had achieved, as reflected in the monuments of the latter. Anderson concludes that "the reconstructed monuments, juxtaposed with the surrounding rural poverty, said to the natives: Our very presence shows that you have been, or have long become, incapable of either greatness or self-rule."12 Cohn speaks to the broader dynamics of the colonial appropriation of native pasts through archaeology—how British patrons "created a system of classification which determined what was valuable, that which would be preserved as monuments of the past, that which was collected and placed in museums, that which could be bought and sold, that which would be taken from India as mementoes and souvenirs of their own relationship to India and Indians."13 Such systems of classification constituted critical forms of power for the British, for they afforded the British control of the Indian past. As Cohn himself captures the notion, "The power to define the nature of the past and establish priorities in the creation of a monumental record of a civilization, and to propound canons of taste, are among the most significant instrumentalities of rulership."14 Particularly noteworthy in the account, however, is the argument that such "systems of classification," such forms of power, were not deployed in uniform fashion to achieve uniform aims—that there existed no coherent conspiracy to disparage the accomplishments of the peoples of ancient India, or to dissociate the inhabitants of modern India from their forbears. In fact, Cohn reveals that British archaeologists conceived of India "not only as exotic and bizarre but as a kind of living museum of the European past"—that individual archaeologists reasoned, "Builders in India have been doing the same thing since time immemorial, which enables the British to understand how their own great religious buildings of the Middle Ages were constructed."15 Perhaps the only effort at interrogation of the "scientific" pretensions of European Egyptology yet undertaken—without doubt, the most conspicuous—is that mounted by Martin Bernal in Volume I of his magisterial work, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Bernal argues that the development of Egyptology as a "scientific" discipline was linked to a broad European intellectual effort to marginalize the contribution of ancient Egypt to the classical heritage of Europe in Greece—to render the world of the ancient Egyptians a shadowy, remote, and irrational one, with which modern Europeans could not possibly identify. A wholly italicized passage of Black Athena points to the rise of racism during the nineteenth century as responsible for the intellectual effort to disparage ancient [End Page 250] Egypt: If it had been scientifically "proved" that Blacks were biologically incapable of civilization, how could one explain Ancient Egypt—which was inconveniently placed on the African continent? There were two, or rather three, solutions. The first was to deny that the Ancient Egyptians were black; the second was to deny that the Ancient Egyptians had created a "true" civilization; the third was to make doubly sure by denying both. The last has been preferred by most 19th- and 20th-century historians.16 As to chronology, Bernal points to the 1860s and 1870s as "a period of tension between the spirit of Champollion and the prevailing racism and passion for Greece"—that is, between a lingering esteem for the ancient Egyptians and the racism challenging that esteem—whereas, after 1880, "Egyptology tended to conform and subordinate itself to the dominant discipline of Classics."17 Apparently, according to Bernal, "There was nothing the Egyptologists in a small peripheral discipline could do about the denigration of Egypt, even if they wanted to. Few, if any, did. Nearly all of them had had a thorough Classical education before beginning their own subject."18 Peter Gran, in the introduction accompanying the 1998 edition of his Islamic Roots of Capitalism, renders a comparable judgment: Ancient Egypt is a necessary foil; to Westerners it is worth the investment for that reason. Obscure and religious, ancient Egypt makes no sense. This is its function. It is the function of Egyptology to make Egypt make no sense. If Egypt were made to make sense, or if Moses were generally seen as Egyptian (as Freud saw him), doubts about the wisdom of Moss's exodus would arise.19 According to Gran, doubts as to the wisdom of the exodus represent a problem for such purported democracies as the United States—democracies justifying their founding fathers' slaughter of indigenous peoples through symbolic references to Moss's slaughter of Egyptians. Although both Bernal and Gran merit acclaim for their respective efforts to question the "scientific" pretensions of Egyptology—to ascertain the distinctly political motives behind European Egyptological projects—I must question the sweeping nature of their claims. Have all Egyptologists remained as resigned to the ascendancy of Greece as Bernal claims? Have all Egyptologists remained committed to rendering the world of the ancient Egyptians shadowy, remote, and irrational, as Gran maintains? The words of Amelia Edwards—the founder of the Egypt Exploration Fund and Petrie's principal benefactor—cast considerable doubt upon such claims. Despite a successful career as a novelist, with eight works published between 1855 and 1880, Edwards chose in the 1880s to devote all her effort to the cause of excavation and archaeological preservation in Egypt.20 In lectures she delivered throughout Britain and the United States, intended to raise funds for such excavation and preservation, she emphasized how "civilized" the ancient Egyptians were, and marshaled evidence that Petrie provided her to demonstrate the point. In a lecture entitled "Egypt, the Birthplace of Greek Decorative Art," she professed her profound esteem for ancient Egyptians—an esteem rooted in their civilizational attainments, "manners, a written language, a literature, a school of art, and a settled government" among them.21 As the title of the lecture indicates, Edwards was convinced that "the early Greek, when emerging from prehistoric barbarism, must have gone to school to the Delta and the Valley of the Nile, not only for his first lessons in letters and science, but also for his earliest notions of architecture and the arts."22 Had Edwards, a mere "aficionado," tended to exaggeration to secure resources for her Egypt Exploration Fund? Was her sentiment unrepresentative of that of the emerging generation of "scientific" Egyptologists, Petrie foremost among them? Although Bernal would reply in the affirmative, there exists much evidence to challenge his broad claim that Egyptologists sought both to "whiten" the ancient Egyptians and to disparage their achievements, given their alleged subservience to Classics. Inclined to concur with the former half of the argument—that regarding the "whitening" of the ancients—I have fundamental doubts about the latter. Bernal seems to have engaged in a remarkably selective perusal of Egyptologists' works, and thus neglected the diversity of arguments as to the ancient Egyptians' "civilized" character, advanced by the foremost archaeologists of Egyptology's formative years as a "scientific" discipline. I have no intention, however, of erecting a broad narrative challenging that of Bernal and Gran, to the effect that Egyptologists had a uniformly sanguine vision of the ancient Egyptians. The ancient Egyptians were assuredly cast as an "uncivilized" people, of "poor racial stock," when their practices or policies were set in contradistinction to modern practices or policies as "superstitious" or "irrational." However, Egyptologists were no less willing to cast the ancient Egyptians as a distinctly "civilized" people, of "good racial stock," when their ancient practices or policies appeared to endorse modern practices or policies.23 In short, images of the ancient Egyptians were eminently flexible means to distinctly functional, political ends in the hands of purportedly "scientific" Egyptologists. [End Page 251] Imagining Imperial Forbears Prior to the nineteenth century, Bernal concedes, there existed in Europe a fascination with and veneration for the ancient Egyptians. In the Middle Ages, the roots of non-biblical philosophy and culture were traced to Hermes Trismegistos, an incarnation of the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth.24 By the eighteenth century, the Freemasons had seized upon Egypt as the birthplace of geometry, and modeled their associational life upon that of ancient Egyptian priesthoods.25 In his Mediterranean Passion, focused upon nineteenth-century travelers, John Pemble warns against misinterpreting the interest in Egyptian and Assyrian archaeology apparent among the Victorians for, he insists, "there was no inclination to pay the tribute of envy or emulation. The remains of these ancient societies were essentially museum specimens: the fascinating but unedifying products of alien and inferior civilizations."26 Yet, a cursory glance at the terms in which nineteenth-century travelers described the ancient Egyptians and their monuments reveals the existence of just the envy whose persistence Pemble emphatically denies. Jerome Van C. Smith noted during a visit to Dendera in 1850, "No description could do justice to those inimitable specimens of artistic skill. I have already seen enough of architecture in Egypt to convince me that four thousand years to come will not produce their equal."27 Missionary William Jowett recalled, in his 1822 Christian Researches in the Mediterranean, a conversation with a Coptic priest of Luxor, during which the priest asked "Why the English Travellers spent so much money on the granite statues and other antiques. Some idea seemed to have crept into his mind, that the English would put them into their Churches, and worship them."28 The priest was scarcely far from the mark, for the travelers' comments frequently reveal that, if given the choice between preservation of the ruins of ancient Egyptian temples and that of the ruins of ancient Christian churches, they opted for the former. In 1853, Carl Lepsius recounted restoration efforts in temples the ancient Christians of Egypt had converted into churches, during which he "loosened the stucco, which is generally covered over with totally uninteresting Coptic paintings, that I might restore the splendid sculptures of the Egyptian gods and kings concealed beneath them once more to their older and greater claims on our attention."29 John Foulkes Jones, in his Egypt in Its Biblical Relations and Moral Aspect (1860), noted that the ancient Christians "thought that by their mud-plasterings they were 'doing God service;' but it would have been well if they had been quiet." He proceeded to justify his claim: "I should like to see Christianity preaching in its granite pulpit in the temples of Egypt, and perhaps we shall before long; but not such a Christianity as this. What better is St. Peter, with his Keys of Heaven, than the Egyptian Pthah, with his Key of the Nile!"30 Such were the comments of individual travelers—but how is one to account for the widespread persistence of, if not expansion in, reverence for Egyptian antiquities in nineteenth-century Europe? In May 1821, Giovanni Belzoni unveiled his finds in the temples and tombs of Egypt at the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly. Two thousand visited the exhibition on opening day, and the antiquities remained at the Egyptian Hall for a year.31 As Anthony Sattin argues, in stark contrast to Pemble, "Britons enjoyed the opportunity of comparing themselves with one of the great civilisations of antiquity."32 Nineteenth-century Western travelers to Egypt describe a particular interest in the Coptic Christians of Egypt as the "modern sons of the pharaohs."33 In a 1859 dialogue between an English child, Percy, and a "native informant," Mr. Haradin, in a fictionalized travel account of the period aimed at children, speaks to this notion, then widely held in the West. Young Percy asks Haradin, with a measure of confusion and frustration, "Why the inhabitants of Egypt are always called Arabs instead of Egyptians. I never hear any one talking of Egyptians; it is always 'those clever Arabs,' or 'those lazy Arabs,' that every one speaks of. Now, why is this? We are not in Arabia, Mr. Haradin?" Haradin proceeds to inform Percy that, "Ever since Egypt was conquered by the Arabs in the seventh century, the mixed inhabitants have received the name, just as they have adopted the language of their conquerors." Percy is disturbed by the response for, given his fascination with the splendors of ancient Egypt, he had aimed to meet and honor the ancients' lineal descendants. He is thus relieved to learn from Haradin that "Copts are the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, and have, on account of their professing the Christian religion, never amalgamated or intermarried with the Arab race, except, indeed, such of them as have first embraced the Moslem faith."34 Rationalizing the Imperial Imagination The principal dilemma facing all archaeologists is that of reconstructing the social life of a given time and place from disparate fragments of evidence. William Matthew Flinders Petrie introduces his 1923 Social Life in Ancient Egypt with an explicit justification of how he has surmounted that dilemma. The disparate fragments of evidence are, in his research, "united by a cement of familiarity with the land and the people, which have remained so little changed."35 Such a justification stands in stark contrast to a claim advanced at the end of the [End Page 252] very same volume. Two hundred pages later, the author maintains that, whereas the land may have remained unaltered through the centuries, the people assuredly had not. He concludes the volume with the admonition, "The Egyptians of the present age are not to be accepted as the race of the past. The fatal overlaying by an Arab majority has spoiled the finest minds of the stock."36 How is one to account for such dissonance? There is a hint of an explanation in the words that follow the "racial analysis." Petrie continues, "The high attainments, the permanence and continuity of Egyptian life, with a fuller record than that of any other country, will always render it the most important human growth for study, whether socially, politically, or in the history of invention, which is the lifeblood of civilisation."37 Indeed, Social Life in Ancient Egypt is a work of emphatic commendation of the ancient Egyptians' practices and policies. Explicit, elaborate parallels between the "progress" of the ancient Egyptian empire and civilization and that of the modern British empire and civilization are erected. For instance, Petrie describes how the rise of an empire depends upon the "transmissibility of payments." In his words, as a medium for exchange, "Corn suffices for a city-state, copper for a small group of cities, silver for an isolated country, gold for an empire, paper for the relations between empires." He proceeds to recount how, by their eighteenth dynasty, the ancient Egyptians had reached the gold standard—a development concomitant with a vast expansion in Egyptian domains. In the case of England, the rise of the gold standard had permitted the Battle of Sluys and the inauguration of the English "career of expansion."38 Petrie lauds the skill in administration reflected in the monumental Great Pyramid. According to him, "Much nonsense has been written about the oppression of the people, their tears and groans. With the splendid organisation evident in the work, the people must have been well managed."39 He proceeds to excuse the "absence of republican interludes" in ancient Egypt by reference to the limits upon the Egyptian monarchy enforced by law. As Petrie explains, "However bad an Egyptian might be personally, he [the monarch] could not earn the hatred of his subjects like the irresponsible Greek tyrants or Roman emperors. He was held by being part of a highly organized official machinery."40 Further, members of the most humble ancient Egyptian strata could reach positions of power in that machinery. Indeed, meritocracy "was a chief cause of the durability of Egyptian society; great as the differences were, there was a gradation interlocking all through, as in England."41 Further, the ancient Egyptians were a "morally civilized" people. According to Petrie, "In practical life, the Egyptian felt very strongly the value of strength of character and of self-control. He taught that there would be no room for deviation and uncertainty if a resolute course be firmly adopted. The steadfast, unwavering mind is held up as a heavenly requisite." Fraud and deception were rejected; discretion, humility, and geniality endorsed. He continues, "To superiors, ready submission was commended; and the influences of backstairs and toadying were not to be omitted. To inferiors, fairness and kindness were enjoined; past favour should not be harped upon. Pride, grasping and browbeating are all condemned."42 Petrie ventures to claim that the ancient Egyptians insisted upon order and cleanliness in their public and private affairs, respectively. In the public sphere, registries of land, property, wills, boundaries, assessments, and births, and a hierarchical system of courts, ensured the proper administration of justice; whereas of the private sphere, Petrie notes that the ancient Egyptians "had their garments constantly fresh washed with particular attention."43 To return to the dissonance in the text as to racial origins, with such an emphatic commendation of the ancient Egyptians' practices and policies pervading Social Life, how could Petrie possibly reconcile the "degraded" state of the modern Egyptians—a people ruled by Britons for forty years, specifically due to their lack of "civilization"—with the sanguine vision of the ancient Egyptians he held? The notion of the "fatal overlaying by an Arab majority" with which Petrie concluded the text was critical to his explanation of how the Egyptians had departed from the "civilized path." He emphasized, however, that although the racial characteristics of the Egyptian people had "deteriorated" through the centuries, the physical characteristics of the Egyptian landscape had remained unaltered. Hence, Petrie could argue that the British administrators of Egypt were in a position to learn much, in distinctly practical terms, from the example of the ancient Egyptians, as far as their relationship with that landscape was concerned. The ancient Egyptians had grasped the particular principles of administration that functioned most aptly in the Egyptian landscape. One such principle of administration was forced labor. Petrie characterizes forced labor as "a natural feature of the management" under the ancient Egyptians. As he recounts, "The inundation left the people unemployed, and at the same time imperiled the great dykes on which the country depended. Hence it was in the common interest that unpaid labour should be organised to keep up the earthworks."44 Given the logic in forced labor that Petrie perceived, he was left bewildered by British administrators' decision to abolish the practice. For Petrie, forced labor was an eminently salutary institution for all involved, the laborer included: [End Page 253] Each man might be levied twice in his lifetime; he would be just as well off there as at home, for he could do nothing during the inundation. All that was necessary was to transport a couple of hundredweight of food with him, which he would eat there instead of at home. The immense gain to the people was the education in combined work and technical training.45 The meager attention Bernal affords as critical an Egyptological figure as Petrie in the text of Black Athena—a couple of pages, for the most part unrelated to Petrie's principal research—is not at all startling when one considers the argument Bernal seeks to substantiate. Petrie, cast by Bernal as "the brilliant and eccentric founder of modern Egyptology," is not a figure who fits neatly into Bernal's framework.46 Petrie never viewed his work as of less importance than the Classicists'—quite to the contrary, in fact. Amelia Edwards's arguments as to the Egyptian roots of Greek civilization flowed from research Petrie had conducted at Naukratis. Casting Petrie as an "eccentric"—and, further, as a "maverick" later in the text—is a particularly curious rhetorical maneuver, given the fact that the archaeologist served as Professor of Egyptology at the University of London from 1892 to 1933 and as Emeritus Professor until his death in 1942, that he secured honorary doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh, and that he published roughly one thousand books, articles, and reviews in his lifetime. In the view of Who Was Who in Egyptology, Petrie "made more major archaeological discoveries than any other archaeologist" and "advanced the whole approach to archaeology."47 Although Bernal could not afford to discuss Petrie's emphatic commendation of ancient Egyptian practices and policies, there is little question that Petrie's machinations as to the racial characteristics of the Egyptians lend force to Black Athena's "whitening" argument. In his 1932 memoirs, Petrie speaks to the long-rehearsed notion of the Copts as the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, pointing to the Coptic village as "clean and well swept, the women sitting at work in the doorways and chatting across the street. It is on the level of a civilised Mediterranean land, and not like the filthy confusion of a Mohammedan village." He concludes, "Egypt will never be a civilised land till it is ruled by the Copts—if ever."48 Seven years later, Petrie published The Making of Egypt—an examination of the racial characteristics of the ancient Egyptians, as such characteristics shifted through the centuries. Petrie had analyzed the skull capacities and facial types not only of actual physical remains, but of statuary as well. Of one statue, he comments, "The tremendous vigour and driving power of the square jaw and high cheek bone is unrivalled. Not even the former great leader, Mena, could have withstood Khufu."49 The driving force behind shifts in racial characteristics—and, in turn, behind advances in "civilization"—was military invasion from abroad. The attainment of each successive stage in Egyptian civilization "was due to intermixture with an alien civilisation, and we may infer that a people however mingled cannot progress when once unified—continual mixture with another civilisation being needful for the growth and development of a country."50 According to Petrie, then writing in 1939, "These researches, which have crystallized the scattered facts of the past, may tend to promote a more hopeful view of our own time, and lead us to avoid the exclusive nationalism which ignores history. The remote ages of the past bear on the immediate present and serve to illumine the future."51 Although he emphasized the "scientific" character of his research, Petrie was scarcely oblivious to the political implications of Egyptology. Whether lauding British principles of imperial administration as "immemorial," endorsing the practice of forced labor in Egypt as "natural," condemning Egyptian Muslims as "racially unfit" to govern their country, or criticizing nationalism as a "racially myopic" policy, Petrie marshaled his credentials as a "scientist" to great effect in rendering distinctly political judgments. Notably, however, his quest to preserve his interpretative control of ancient Egypt never led him to cast the world of the ancients as shadowy, remote, or irrational. To erect such a barrier between ancient Egyptians and modern Europeans would have served only to diminish his influence, for that influence was rooted in his capacity to erect parallels between the world of the ancient Egyptians and that of modern Europeans. In his memoirs, Petrie describes with great pride how, during the July 1901 exhibition of antiquities he had collected, "a new public feeling appeared; instead of only caring for things of beauty or remarkable appearance, people hung over the tables, fascinated by the fragments of the Ist dynasty. The historic meaning and importance had an astonishing effect; some workmen would spend their whole dinner hour in the room."52 From Imperial Imagination to Colonial Policy In 1905, four years after having left his studies at the University of Oxford and joined Petrie as part of the Egypt Exploration Fund mission, Arthur Weigall was appointed Inspector-General of Egyptian Antiquities by Lord Cromer.53 The influence of Weigall's experience in the field, both under Petrie and during his nine years as Inspector-General, is palpable in the Egyptological writings to which he devoted the remainder of his career—no [End Page 254] fragment or facet of which receives attention in Black Athena. The theme common to virtually all his writings is the urgency of the preservation of Egyptian antiquities upon Egyptian soil. As Weigall declared in his 1923 collection of essays, The Glory of the Pharaohs, "I have no hesitation in saying that the craze for recklessly dragging away unique monuments from Egypt to be exhibited in western museums for the satisfaction of the untravelled man, is the most pernicious bit of folly to be found in the whole broad realm of Egyptological misbehaviour."54 For Weigall, to remove Egyptian antiquities from Egyptian soil was to violate the spirit of archaeology. Egypt was, for him, an exalted museum of civilization. Robbing Egypt of her antiquities was to rob her of her coherence. Wrested from their proper context, the antiquities could indeed appear shadowy, remote, and irrational—but preserved in Egypt in the order the ancients had intended, they were evocative of the order and authority of a great empire of the past, and represented a potent arsenal of symbols with which Egyptologists could advance political claims. He lamented, "The public has learnt to ask to be shown the works, and the archaeologist is often so proud of them that he forgets to mention the purpose of the machine."55 As long as archaeologists focused upon individual antiquities as curiosities of the past, they could never achieve the authority Weigall believed they merited. In his words, "The true archaeologist does not take pleasure in skeletons as skeletons, for his whole effort is to cover them decently with flesh and skin once more, and to put some thoughts back into their empty skulls."56 The power to cover the skeletons with flesh, the power to put thoughts into the empty skulls of the ancient Egyptians, was a power the archaeologist could deploy to great advantage. Control of the past was tantamount to control of the present. As Weigall captured the notion, "The layman, in the manner of the little Nationalist, lives in a small and confined Present; but the archaeologist, like a true Imperialist, ranges through all time, and calls it not the Past but the Greater Present."57 The authority of the archaeologist derives from interpretative control of history, for each individual has a responsibility to history. Weigall explained, "The simple consciousness that we who live in the present day are figures silhouetted against the luminous curtain of former ages produces in our minds a definite sense of proportion and decorum which is our surest defence against anarchy and uncontrol." To fulfill their responsibility to history, all individuals must heed the words of the archaeologist. Indeed, if "every antiquity or ancient work of art serves as a reminder to us of our responsibilities to God and man," then the archaeologist wields the power to define the responsibilities of the individual.58 With the link between archaeological expertise and political authority thus established, Weigall proceeded in The Glory of the Pharaohs, and in a subsequent collection issued in 1924, Tutankhamen and Other Essays, to render judgments as to how ancient trends could bear upon the conduct of modern Egyptian politics. In contrast to Petrie, Weigall was convinced that "the ancient and modern Egyptians are one and the same people"—and that, hence, he enjoyed a unique grasp of the "inner impulses" that had driven the Egyptian race from time immemorial.59 There was no need for him to confine his comments to the strategies of governance that flowed "logically'" from the nature of the Egyptian landscape; through his Egyptological studies, Weigall believed he had delved into the psychology of not merely the ancient Egyptian, but the modern Egyptian as well. He declared, "The complex character of a human being is expounded only by the study of his forefathers. If we would appreciate the value of a race or nation we must of necessity sit down seriously to a detailed examination of the past." As to the Egyptian case, he continued: It is an incontestable fact that the contents of the ancient sepulchres do give us the material to form the basis of the only reasonable study of the Egyptian question—the study of the Present in the light of the Past with an eye to the Future. The records which are discovered in the tombs tell us what Egyptian individuals can accomplish ethically, while the antiquities themselves show us of what they are capable artistically, industrially, technically, and scientifically.60 However, the insistence upon racial continuity between the ancient and modern Egyptians presented Weigall with just the dilemma Petrie had faced—that of how to reconcile an esteem for the ancient Egyptians, which Weigall held in common with Petrie, with the "degraded" state of their descendants. Weigall argued, notably in an essay entitled "The Children of Egypt," that the Egyptians had merely failed to develop since the time of the ancients—that the Egyptian peasant was "a relic of the days when the world was young, preserved to this present age together with the Sphinx and the Pyramids." Egypt was, indeed, not merely an exalted museum of civilization, but a living one. The British had carried forth the cause of "civilization" pioneered by the ancients, and thus possessed the responsibility "to act as tutor to a most engaging, though sometimes provoking, rabble of children"—the modern Egyptians.61 Weigall insisted, nevertheless, that the Egyptians would scarcely remain children for long—that in the four decades of British tutelage the Egyptians had enjoyed to that point, they had begun to grasp the chasm [End Page 255] between their "glorious" past and their "degraded" present. He remarked, "There is a new attitude of self-assertion to be observed, which, while it may somewhat startle a few of the old-fashioned British officials, is received by the majority with gladness, as being a sign of the recovery of this most engaging people from its long sickness"—the sickness of stagnation.62 Yet, as the Egyptians still possessed, as a race, the requisite genetic material for greatness, the recovery was a cause not merely for gladness, but for concern as well. Weigall claimed that, if mishandled, the "regeneration of the Egyptian race" could prove an unmitigated disaster for British strategic interests. The concessions to Egyptian nationalism Britain was constrained to accept constituted evidence of the consequences such "mishandling" could entail. Just as inescapable as Egyptian nationalism was the reemergence of Egyptian imperialism. According to Weigall, "From the earliest historical times the Egyptians have endeavoured to hold Syria and Palestine as a vassal state." He pointed to the Pharaoh Khyan who "ruled from Baghdad to the Sudan," and to Thutmosis III who "fought no less than seventeen campaigns in Asia, and left to his son the most powerful throne in the world."63 Weigall was convinced that, although the British could delay Egyptian expansion into Syria and Palestine, a power as vigorous as the British could not quell the "inner impulse" that had long propelled Egyptians into adjacent territories. The British had therefore to reconcile themselves to history, and to prepare for that eventuality. Despite the conceited attitudes of particular British officials, "Egypt is not a little country: Egypt is a crippled empire."64 Weigall ventured to argue that, in fact, British officials in Egypt could consider themselves fortunate as, "if there is any importance in the bearing of history upon politics, we have in Egypt a better chance of appreciating it than we have in the case of any other country." 65 With both access to means of coercion and a grasp of the patterns of history, such officials enjoyed a unique opportunity to influence the inexorable forces of Egyptian nationalism and expansionism to British advantage—an opportunity that would not last for long. Although Weigall confined his political commentary to distinctly Egyptian affairs in his nonfiction works, a broader vision emerges from his fiction—in particular, a novel he published in 1926 entitled The Way of the East. The principal characters of the novel are Colonel Romance, a cavalry officer enjoying a leave in Britain from service in India, and Miriam Marcos, "a beautiful, dark-eyed, dark-haired Latin or even Jewish-looking girl" residing for the moment at the home of the Colonel's American sister-in-law, Mrs. Garrett.66 Romance is immediately attracted to Miriam, both physically and intellectually, despite her rather unconventional views. In their initial chance encounter at the home of Mrs. Garrett, Miriam unabashedly argues, "People of different nationalities, brought up in the same way, will be the same, or act the same, or pretty nearly so."67 She continues, "You complain about Indians and Egyptians and those sort of people being dirty; but that could all be changed in a generation, just as it has been changed in England. It's not the breed; it's the ideal."68 The Colonel swiftly discovers that such unconventional views are the product of distinctly individual experience, for Miss Marcos, although educated in England from infancy and thus entrenched in English manners and customs, is an Egyptian—specifically, the daughter of Girgis Pasha Marcos, the Coptic Governor of the Egyptian Province of Ismuay. Romance is shocked by the news that he has fallen in love with a native. When he confronts Miriam with the revelation, she defiantly asks, "Where's the difference: Tell me that! Am I black?—look at me. I've got your English point of view; my thoughts are the same as your thoughts. The only difference is that I come of a pure, blue-blooded, ancient race; and you are nothing but a hotchpotch, as you called it yourself the other day"—a hotchpotch of races to which the Colonel had, in fact, credited Britons' greatness.69 He had argued that there existed no distinctly British racial characteristics, that his ancestors' resistance to inbreeding was laudable. The fusion of races in modern Britons was a virtue, Romance had insisted, for they had thus secured the finest genetic material from a range of racial sources. The notion of incorporating the "blue blood" of a descendant of the ancient Egyptians into that fusion comes to mesmerize Romance. He pleads with Miriam to accept him as a husband after all, declaring, "We're out to produce the superman; we're doing God's work; we're consciously trying to create, to mix, to select, to find the formula. We're Adam and Eve again; and Paradise is there, somewhere, if only we can discover it. Will you try? Will you let us give it a chance?"70 As the Colonel casts a gaze upon his prospective mate, images of ancient Egyptian greatness overwhelm him: Just as she looked now, so some dim, remote queen, whose blood ran in Miriam's veins, had looked out from her casement down on to the paved and sunlit embankment of the Nile, here the treasure ships of conquered kingdoms were moored. There was immeasurable, unfathomable history latent behind those features. Her lips had been kissed by kings in Thebos of the Hundred Gates; upon her forehead the serpent-diadem of the Pharaohs had rested, as she sat upon her golden throne in Memphis; her ears had listened to the ravishing music of the harpers at some [End Page 256] mystic ceremony in honor of the inscrutable Sphinx; her eyes had seen the loveliness of the moon in the incense-gardens of Philae, within sound of the Cataract; her feet had trod the halls of the palace at Alexandria, beside the halcyon sea.71 Romance concludes, "The place upon which she stood was enchanted ground; there was a magic circle about her which held the romantic history of the oldest civilization on earth; there was the shining glory of ages around her, fading into the pale light of legend."72 For the moment, however, Miriam refuses to participate in the Colonel's genetic experiment, returning to Egypt with her father to "find her roots"—but not without a measure of dread, given all she has heard of the backwardness of the modern Egyptians. Her worst nightmare in fact materializes upon her return, as she is cloistered with relatives revolting in their "superstition." Foremost among the relatives is her aunt, Mrs. Todros, who at one point recommends the hedgehog as a cure for the fool—specifically, "You stew the left eye and the heart [of the hedgehog] in the water of boiled onions, and anoint his [the fool's] face with it, while he is asleep."73 When Mrs. Garrett calls upon the Marcos family in Ismuay, Miriam urges her former host, "Look at this tawdriness, this vulgarity," and proceeds to confess, "I'm humbled, you see. I haven't one ounce of pride left."74 Colonel Romance, undeterred by images of brown children "leaping and whooping down the corridors of his brain, like a pack of savages, beating tom-toms and gnashing their teeth," ventures to Egypt to rescue Miriam from all the tawdriness and vulgarity of the modern Egyptians—a people who had lost their "ideals."75 An adventure ensues, with Miriam forced to marry a native and Romance ultimately spiriting her to a vessel headed for Europe. Yet, in the midst of that adventure, despite the "evident degradation" of the modern Egyptians, Romance never loses sight of their "genetic potential." A conversation at the Winter Palace in Luxor leaves a particularly great impression: 'A wonderful old race, the Egyptians!' the Archdeacon declared. 'It is odd how one never thinks of them in ancient times as being Oriental people: they always seem to have been so Western. It was from them that Europe obtained its civilization. They were the first people, I am told, who sat upright upon chairs instead of squatting on stools or on the ground, or reclining on sofas: that is a very significant fact. And then, again, they were the only people in the ancient world who gave women equal rights with men.'76 To the Colonel's mind, Miriam, with her "civilized manners and customs, is living evidence that Britons could restore to the Egyptians their "civilizational greatness." Indeed, the rise of Egyptian nationalism is indicative that the process of the Egyptians' realizing their "genetic potential" is underway. As Romance captures the notion, "The Egyptians have been rulers of the world once, and even now they are intensely alive and active. All this patriotic business, 'Egypt for the Egyptians,' and this mania to get rid of us, is a sign of their renewed vitality."77 Importantly, however, the Egyptians could themselves aid in renewing the vitality of British stock, by contributing their genetic material to the British "hotchpotch." Romance explicitly cites the case of the United States, an ascendant world power, as potentially instructive for Britons: America is a sort of kitchen of the gods, where different types and different breeds are being boiled down into a new type. The people of our own country unconsciously started the pot boiling. They mixed and mixed until they produced a people so overflowing with new energy that they bubbled over into the new world; and then, on American soil, they went on mixing on a far larger scale; and I believe they're going to produce something really wonderful in the end, something more like God intended.78 The Colonel emphasizes that, "I don't think we have got to the stage yet when white can be mixed with brown, and I don't suppose white will ever mix with black." Yet Romance insists that Miriam, in line with her ancient Egyptian ancestors, is "as white as I am, and I dare say all Heaven is waiting, breathless, to see what will happen when an Egyptian and an Englishman intermarry. The Englishman is already such an extraordinary mixture in himself: there may be just this one ingredient wanting to start a regular explosion of genius."79 Excavating Archaeological Knowledge Flinders Petrie captured his vision of his role as a "scientist" in a memoir he published in 1932, entitled Seventy Years in Archaeology. As he recounts, "A year's work in Egypt made me feel it was like a house on fire, so rapid was the destruction going on. My duty was that of a salvage man, to get all I could, quickly gathered in, and then when I was sixty I would sit down and write it up."80 Petrie conveys a palpable urgency in his description of the mission he had undertaken in 1880—to preserve whatever he could of ancient Egypt in the midst of the rapid ruin of the country's heritage, ruin effected principally by the plunder of utterly unscrupulous Egyptian dealers and their wealthy European patrons, but unconscionably furthered by the "unscientific" techniques fellow excavators had embraced. In contrast to the unscrupulous plunderers seeking to enhance their [End Page 257] private collections, and the "unscientific" excavators seeking to enhance their individual reputations, Petrie had a public-minded aim, "the publication of a series of volumes, each of which shall be incapable of being altogether superseded, and which will remain for decades to come—perhaps centuries—as the sources of facts and references on their subject." Petrie casts himself uniquely qualified to achieve that aim, given his skill in both the "fine art of collecting, of securing all the requisite information, of realising the importance of everything found and avoiding oversights, of proving and testing hypotheses constantly," and in the "weaving of a history out of scattered evidence using all materials of inscriptions, objects, positions and probabilities."81 Without doubt, Petrie was successful in cultivating an image of himself as an impartial scholar, strictly faithful in his interpretations of ancient Egyptian civilization to the evidence he uncovered—an image that his students, Arthur Weigall among them, embraced, and an image to which chroniclers of Egyptian archaeology have remained devoted. Perhaps the greatest irony in the insistence upon properly educated Egyptologists that the example of Petrie encouraged, is that Petrie had in fact received little formal education, and possessed virtually no independently acquired knowledge of ancient Egypt or techniques of excavation, prior to his journey to the country. The only archaeological experience he had upon his arrival in 1880 was acquired through the collection of coins as a child and surveys of Stonehenge undertaken with his father, a civil engineer. Petrie's initial journey to Egypt was motivated by the aim to mount a comparable survey of the Great Pyramid.82 One year after Petrie published his memoirs, American Egyptologist James Henry Breasted described in his work, The Dawn of Conscience, the journey of a particular black stone from Egypt to London. In the eighth century BCE, the ancients had engraved upon the stone a text originally composed millennia prior. Despite this grand legacy, in Breasted's day, the stone "served as a nether millstone, on which modern Egyptian villagers ground their flour. For years they turned the upper millstone round and round on the inscribed surface, little realising what they were obliterating."83 When "qualified" archaeologists at last "discovered" the text, they lodged the former millstone, thenceforth denoted an "artifact," in an institution no less exalted than the British Museum. A "scientific" effort mounted by "qualified" Egyptologists at last permitted the artifact to speak to the modern world. The wisdom of the ancients was at last "revealed" by such self-styled authorities as Breasted. To my mind, this episode speaks in vivid terms to Bernard Cohn's conceptualization of archaeological systems of classification as forms of power, the spirit of which has driven the preceding journey through "scientific" Egyptology. The millstone was eminently functional in the eyes of the peasants—an effectual means by which they could grind flour. Yet, the millstone, recast as an "artifact," was equally functional in the eyes of "pioneer" Egyptologists like Petrie—an effectual means by which they could advance political claims. The power of "scientific" Egyptology permitted Flinders Petrie to distinguish his claims as "impartially corroborated"—to conceal the fact that a man, and not a "discipline," had determined the relative merits of the manifold histories one could fabricate about Egyptians, ancient and modern. Endnotes 1. Howard Carter and A. C. Mace, The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen (New York: Dover Publications, 1977), 141. 2. Amelia B. Edwards, Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1891), 158. 3. Carter and Mace, Discovery of the Tomb, 124-125. 4. Carter and Mace, Discovery of the Tomb, 141. 5. Brian M. Fagan, The Rape of the Nile: Tomb Robbers, Tourists, and Archaeologists in Egypt (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975), 369. 6. Fred Gladstone Bratton, A History of Egyptian Archaeology (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968), 81-82. 7. For broad explorations of the politics of archeological interpretation and representation, refer to Bruce G. Trigger, "Alternative Archaeologies: Nationalist, Colonialist, Imperialist," Man 19 (1984): 355-370 and Don D. Fowler, "Uses of the Past: Archaeology in the Service of the State," American Antiquity 52:2 (1987), 229-248. 8. Donald M. Reid, "Nationalizing the Pharaonic Past: Egyptology, Imperialism, and Egyptian Nationalism, 1922-1952," in Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East, ed. James Jankowski and Israeli Gershoni (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 129. For a detailed, though perhaps less analytical treatment, refer to Donald M. Reid, "Indigenous Egyptology: The Decolonization of a Profession?" Journal of the American Oriental Society 105:2 (1985): 233-246. 9. Reid, "Indigenous Egyptology," 138. For a fascinating exploration of the significance of ancient Egypt among Muslims long prior, refer to Ulrich Haarmann, "Medieval Muslim Perceptions of Pharaonic Egypt," in Ancient Egyptian Literature: History and Forms, ed. Antonio Loprieno (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996), 605-627. 10. Michael Wood at least touches, if only briefly, upon European appropriations of Egyptology in his "The Use of the Pharaonic Past in Modern Egyptian Nationalism," JARCE 35 (1998): 179-196. 11. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991); Bernard S. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996). [End Page 258] 12. Anderson, Imagined Communities, 181. 13. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge, 77. 14. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge, 10. 15. Cohn, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge, 78 and 93. 16. Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, 2 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 1:241. 17. Bernal, Black Athena, 1:225. 18. Bernal, Black Athena, 1:266. 19. Peter Gran, Islamic Roots of Capitalism: Egypt, 1760-1840 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1998), xxxi. 20. Warren R. Dawson and Eric P. Uphill, Who Was Who in Egyptology (London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1972), 95-96. 21. Edwards, Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers, 158. 22. Edwards, Pharaohs, Fellahs, and Explorers, 31. 23. For a pioneering critique of racial analyses of the ancient Egyptians, refer to Wyatt MacGaffey, "Concepts of Race in the Historiography of Northeast Africa," Journal of African History 7:1 (1966): 1-17. 24. Bernal, Black Athena, 1:23-24. 25. Bernal, Black Athena, 1:25-26. 26. John Pemble, The Mediterranean Passion: Victorians and Edwardians in the South (London: Oxford University Press, 1988), 61. 27. Jerome Van C. Smith, A Pilgrimage to Egypt (Boston, 1852), 156. 28. William Jowett, Christian Researches in the Mediterranean (London, 1822), 145. 29. Carl Richard Lepsius, Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Peninsula of Sinai (London: H. G. Bohn, 1853), 268. 30. John Foulkes Jones, Egypt in Its Biblical Relations and Moral Aspect (London, 1860), 220. 31. Anthony Sattin, Lifting the Veil: British Society in Egypt, 1768-1956 (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1988), 42. 32. Sattin, Lifting the Veil, 19. 33. In the words of Edward William Lane's Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Written in Egypt During the Years 1833-1835, "The fame of that great nation from which the Copts mainly derive their origin renders this people objects of great interest, especially to one who has examined the wonderful monuments of Ancient Egypt" (London: Darf Publishers, 1986), 533. 34. Our Trip to Egypt, by the Author of "The Better Way" (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1859), 171-172. 35. W. M. Flinders Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1923), v. 36. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 201. 37. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 201. 38. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 5-7. 39. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 26-27. 40. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 31. 41. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 46. 42. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 71-72. 43. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 100. 44. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 22. 45. Petrie, Social Life in Ancient Egypt, 26-27. 46. Bernal, Black Athena, 1:137-138. 47. Dawson and Uphill, Who Was Who in Egyptology, 228-230. 48. W. M. Flinders Petrie, Seventy Years in Archaeology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1932), 223-224. 49. W. M. Flinders Petrie, The Making of Egypt (London: The Sheldon Press, 1939), 113. 50. Petrie, The Making of Egypt, 161. 51. Petrie, The Making of Egypt, 161. 52. Petrie, Seventy Years in Archaeology, 193. 53. Dawson and Uphill, Who Was Who in Egyptology, 299-300. 54. Arthur Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1970), 19. 55. Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs, 37. 56. Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs, 37-38. 57. Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs, 40-41. 58. Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs, 74-76. 59. Arthur Weigall, Tutankhamen and Other Essays (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1970), 312. 60. Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs, 82-84. 61. Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs, 224. 62. Weigall, The Glory of the Pharaohs, 16. 63. Weigall, Tutankhamen and Other Essays, 322-323. 64. Weigall, Tutankhamen and Other Essays, 330. 65. Weigall, Tutankhamen and Other Essays, 313. 66. Arthur Weigall, The Way of the East (New York: Adelphi Company, 1926), 24. 67. Weigall, The Way of the East, 32. 68. Weigall, The Way of the East, 37. 69. Weigall, The Way of the East, 88-89. 70. Weigall, The Way of the East, 92. 71. Weigall, The Way of the East, 99. 72. Weigall, The Way of the East, 99-100. 73. Weigall, The Way of the East, 168. 74. Weigall, The Way of the East, 174. 75. Weigall, The Way of the East, 107. 76. Weigall, The Way of the East, 213-214. 77. Weigall, The Way of the East, 279. 78. Weigall, The Way of the East, 278. 79. Weigall, The Way of the East, 292-293. 80. Petrie, Seventy Years in Archaeology, 20. 81. Petrie, Seventy Years in Archaeology, 112-113. 82. Dawson and Uphill, Who Was Who in Egyptology, 228-230. 83. James Henry Breasted, The Dawn of Conscience (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933), 29.