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Unlocking the Photographic Archives of the Pioneering Years of Egyptology at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels

(16/06/2022)

On this day, 75 years ago, Jean Capart passed away at the age of 70. His name will always be associated with the site of Elkab but it is maybe less known that Capart also investigated the provincial step pyramid of el-Kula in 1945 after an initial visit in 1938. Located just north of Hierakonpolis on the opposite side of the Nile from Elkab, el-Kula is part of a series of six other step pyramids located in different parts of the Nile Valley: Seila (Fayum), Zawiyet el-Mayitin, Sinki (Abydos), Ombos (Naqada), Naga el-Ghoneimeyais (Edfu) and Elephantine. The pyramid was visited and described already in 1837 by John Shae Perring and Richard W.H. Vyse (published in ‘The Pyramids of Gizeh’, vol. 3, 1842) and investigated again in February 1882 by Gaston Maspero and Charles Wilbour. In 1945, Capart obtained permission from the Egyptian Antiquities Service to excavate the pyramid and to locate the entrance to the burial chamber. Work started on November 9th, 1945 and was entrusted by Capart to his collaborator Arpag Mekhitarian, assisted by raïs Chared Mohamed Mansur, 21 Quftis and 40 workmen. No burial chamber was found in the el-Kula pyramid nor in any of the other ones. Although their function remains uncertain and is the subject of much debate, it is clear that they were not intended as burial places.

The original field diary and documentation of this excavation, including lists with the full names of all the Quftis and local Egyptian workmen, is also kept at the research archives of the RMAH.

To learn more about it, see: De Meyer, M., Van der Perre, A., Gräzer Ohara, A., Mahran, N.M.A. & Claes, W., 'Working with Capart: Quftis and local workmen during the Elkab excavation seasons, 1937–1946' (to be published in: Navratilova, H.; Gertzen, T.L.; De Meyer, M.; Dodson, A. & Bednarski, A. (eds), Addressing Diversity: Inclusive Histories of Egyptology, Investigatio Orientis: Beiträge zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte der Orientalistik).

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