Appropriation and Its Consequences: Archaeology under Colonial Rule in Egypt and India

In: Journal of Egyptian History
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  • 1 Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University
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The beginnings of archaeology in Egypt and in India are the subject of this paper. In both countries, antiquities were carried away by the powerful. Moreover, the hubris of the colonial powers ruling both countries made it inevitable that not only antiquities, but knowledge about the past, were appropriated in different ways. For modern Egyptians, the Pharaonic past was remote in culture and distant in time. The people themselves were until fairly recently prevented from learning the Pharaonic writing, once it was deciphered, by various ways and means. In contrast, in India the colonial administration relied on Indian scholars to teach British personnel the ancient languages, texts, and religion. In neither country was the history of the ancient period taught in schools until the foreign rulers had left. But Indian archaeology became involved in Indian identity and in the framing of the nation as Hindu, and thereby acquired an ugly twist. Self-identification in Egypt in the earlier twentieth century, on the other hand, was possibly more with the Arab world than with the pyramid builders.

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