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Artefacts of Excavation

The International Distribution of Finds from British Excavations in Egypt, 1880-1980

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‘Artefacts of Excavation’ is a 3-year, AHRC-funded collaborative project led by Dr Alice Stevenson at UCL, and Professor John Baines at the University of Oxford.

From the 1880s to the 1980s British excavations at sites across Egypt resulted in the discovery of tens of thousands of objects. A large proportion were exported from Egypt and distributed to an estimated 200 museums around the world before they were fully documented or published.  'Artefacts of Excavation' is an ambitious project that will create an online resource for the relocation and re-contextualization of these objects, and will explore the role of these distributions in the development of archaeology and museology

The project aims to address the following questions:

(a) What was the scale and scope of the distribution of finds from British excavations in Egypt between 1880 and 1980? Where are these collections now?

(b) What do these finds distributions reveal about the changing relationship between museums, field archaeology and the development of research between 1880 and 1980?

(c) How were local, regional, national, and international identities (including colonial relations) negotiated through the circulation of antiquities from Egypt? How may these be understood in relation to questions of the ownership of Egyptian heritage today?

(d) How were ancient Egyptian artefacts from British excavations accommodated within different museums around the world? How may these local narratives be linked with wider developments in archaeology and museology?

Project Team

  • John Baines, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford
  • Alice Stevenson, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL
  • Liam McNamara, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
  • Alice Williams, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford
  • Emma Libonati, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL
  • Sarah Glover, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford

Project Collaborators

Project website

To be hosted at the Griffith Institute. Coming soon.

This website will not only be a repository for the project outcomes. It will also form a central tool of our research and a point of engagement with museums worldwide. We will be posting here resources to help people identify and more fully understand excavated objects in collections, as well as sharing some of the stories that lie behind artefacts from British fieldwork in Egypt now dispersed across the globe. Our focus will be on the fieldwork of the Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF)/Society (EES), and the British School of Archaeology in Egypt (BSAE)/Egyptian Research Account (ERA).

Project publications

  • Stevenson, A. 2014. Artefacts of excavation: the collection and distribution of Egyptian finds to museums, 1880–1915. Journal of the History of Collections 26(1): 89–102.

For further information please contact Alice Stevenson

Page last modified on 25 oct 14 13:28