Rape of the Nile, the

by Fagan, Brian M.

In the wake of Napoleon’s armies a scramble for the antiquities of Egypt began which was to fill the museums of Europe with unscrupulously – and often spectacularly – acquired booty. Compared to the wholesale looting of temples and monuments in the 19th century, the earlier efforts of Theban tomb-robbers, Roman obelisk-stealers and Arab mummy traders and quarrymen paled into insignificance.
This is the flamboyant story of the ambitious plunderers and pioneering archaeologists who helped first destroy and then (partially) preserve the past of Ancient Egypt. In particular it focuses on the great rival French and British excavators who staked out their claims in the first decades of the 19th century. Chief of these was the circus strongman Giovanni Belzoni, who opened up the Second Pyramid and the temples of Abu Simbel, and who discovered the magnificent royal tombs in the Valley of Kings.
It is a tale of shrewd consuls and ruthless pashas; of travellers like Amelia Edwards and Lucie Duff-Gordon; and of archaeologists like Auguste Mariette and Flinders Petrie, who changed the course of Egyptology and whose successors turned a treasure hunt into a scientific discipline.