Auguste Mariette

From Academic Kids

The French scholar and archaeologist Auguste Ferdinand François Mariette (February 11, 1821January 19, 1881) was the foremost Egyptologist of his generation, and the founder of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Born at Boulogne, 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.

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. 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. Entrusted with a government mission for the purpose of seeking and purchasing Coptic, Syriac, Arabic and Ethiopic manuscripts for the national collection, he set out for Egypt in 1850.

In 1851, soon after his arrival, he made his celebrated discovery of the avenue of sphinxes that led to ruins of the Serapeum near the step-pyramid at Saqqara and eventually the subterraneous catacombs with their spectacular sarcophagi of the Apis bulls. 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, as was the accepted Eurocentric convention. He was raised to an assistant conservator at the Louvre when he returned to Paris.

Soon a genuine opportunity worthy of his energy and talent opened: in 1858 the position of conservator of Egyptian monuments to Ismail Pasha was created for him, and he moved with his family to Cairo. His career blossomed into a chronicle of unwearying exploration and brilliant successes: the museum at Bula; the pyramid-fields of Memphis and Saqqara; the necropolis of Meydum, and those of Abydos and Thebes; the great temples of Dendera and Edfu were disinterred; important excavations were carried out at Karnak, Medinet-Habu and Deir el-Bahri; Tanis (the Egyptian capital in the Late Period) was partially explored in the Delta; and even Gebel Barkal in Sudan. He cleared the sands around the Sphinx down to the bare rock, and in the process discovered the famous granite and alabaster monument, the "Temple of the Sphinx". Mariette's success was aided by the fact that no rivals were permitted to dig in Egypt.

Mariette's relations with the Khedive were not 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.

Mariette was raised successively to the rank of bey and pasha, and European honors and orders were showered on him. Though not all his discoveries were thoroughly published, the list of his publications is a long one. He died in Cairo and was interred in a sarcophagus.

Best-known writings:


External link

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