The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Prisse d'Avennes and Ancient Egypt


A rendering of a purification ritual at the Necropolis at Thebes, from BibliOdissey:

Émile Prisse d'Avesnes (d'Avennes) (1807-1879) was an important mid-19th century French Egyptologist and something of a polymath. He was a soldier, engineer, writer, illustrator and talented linguist.

From 1827 to 1844 d'Avesnes resided in Egypt, teaching cartography and working as an engineer for a time, but eventually he devoted himself to documenting and studying the archaeological treasures from ancient Egypt. He became proficient in hieroglyphs, on the back of Champollion's translations of the Rosetta Stone, and learned to speak at least half a dozen languages fluently during his expeditions around Egypt and further afield in the Arab world.

Ransacking of the artefacts was rife in those days of course and d'Avesnes helped excavate and transfer a large shipment of portrait reliefs from the Valley of the Kings to France, ostensibly to prevent their theft and use as local building material. The brazen act would earn d'Avesnes the Legion of Honour award when he returned to his homeland.

I have vaguely related recent snapshots of the temples of Abydos and Denderra in Qena governorate, near Luxor, up on Flickr.