Publications of excavations in Egypt
Unbeknown to the general public, the most important part of an excavation is not so much the digging itself, as the publication of the results. Unpublished excavations are enterprises on the level of robbery. A find might end up in a museum display, but without any secure background information - without any place in history or humanity. Most excavations today are paid for with public money (tax money), and therefore the public has a particularly strong right to be informed on all aspects of an excavation. There has always been some appreciation of the need to inform broad publics, measurable in the quantity of 'popular scientific' writing on archaeology, often by archaeologists such as Petrie; awareness of this right is increasing in archaeology, with the institutionalisation of Public Archaeology (university positions, journals, degrees). However, the public remains largely uninformed on the urgency to publish. Ideally a publication should inform on all aspects of work undertaken. Plans and maps should be included, covering all architectural features and setting the site in the context of its landscape.
Beware: there is a high number of unpublished excavations. There is no excuse for this!
Ideally all objects found at an excavation should be published in photographs or drawings. However, there are real constraints. Above all, the cost of photographic reproduction remains high. For most smaller objects found black/white drawings were made, which are relatively cheap to reproduce: for such drawings, a competent archaeological illustrator needs to be funded. With new technologies it is also possible to publish high quality colour photographs on digital media, such as CD-ROM or the internet. The use of these media in Egyptology is still very limited. Without the new technological solutions, a selection has to be imposed on the finds. A high number of identical objects might not need to be recorded in detail: one example might be enough, with mention of the exact number of the identical finds.
In the case of rescue excavation (which are made in Egypt by the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation) the problem of a publication is different. A full publication also seems to be desirable, but is often not possible, because of lucking financial resources. Therefore records of rescue excavations should be stored in a way that anyone not familiar with the excavation can have access to all data. The records should be available to all specialists who want to work on the material. The Archaeological Data Service at York provides such a data bank for excavations in England, and the Documentation Centre at Cairo offers potential for the same in Egypt.
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