AHMA Colloquium - Colonial Encounters: Preliminary Findings from the Abydos Temple Paper Archive

Lecture | March 1 | 12-1:15 p.m. | 308A Doe Library

 Jessica Kaiser, UC Berkeley

 Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology, Graduate Group in

This paper is part of a larger lecture series entitled "Digital Humanities and the Ancient World." The series is co-sponsored by the Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology (AHMA) Colloquium and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

Few scholars would deny that Egyptology and colonialism essentially grew up together. For much of its early history, the discipline was completely dominated by Western interests. During this time, native scholars were generally being excluded from academic careers, and thus in effect denied the opportunity to participate in the narrative of their own heritage. Even when the majority of the workforce on western-led excavations were Egyptian, their names are rarely, if at all, mentioned in the resulting publications. In 2013, however, a previously unexamined archive was discovered in a storage room in Abydos. This collection of papers challenges the view of Egyptian heritage workers as victims of the colonial discourse of Egyptology and bystanders in the production of historical knowledge. It consists of thousands of documents from the Inspectorate of Sohag and beyond, related to the development of cultural heritage management in the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities from the mid-nineteenth century through the 1960’s, and ascribes a much greater agency to native Egyptians than previously assumed. The archive is currently in the process of being digitized by an international team, sponsored by UC Berkeley in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Humboldt University Berlin. This paper will present an overview of the preliminary findings of the first two seasons of the Abydos Temple Paper Archive Project, and provide a few examples of the fascinating stories it has uncovered.