By Neil Silberman
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Extra info for Between Past and Present: Archaeology, Ideology, and Nationalism in the Modern Middle East
Like unilinear cultural evolution, extreme diffusionism such as Grafton Smith’s did not stand up to detailed scientific scrutiny, especially when twentieth-century archaeologists realized that they were dealing with very complex problems of culture change over very long periods of prehistoric time. It is tempting to write of bold Egyptians in great ships voyaging to America, or of sword-wielding Bronze Age chieftains fighting their way from Hungary to Belgium 3,500 years ago; but, unfortunately, the human past is much more complicated than that.
Tomb robbing and looting continued unchecked in Egypt until the late nineteenth century; indeed, it persists to this day. But the mystery of hieroglyphs brought another kind of visitor to the Nile – the dedicated scientist. For example, Englishman John Gardiner Wilkinson spent ten years recording inscriptions in Egyptian tombs. He wrote a detailed account of the daily life of the ancient Egyptians, which revealed a colorful, cheerful civilization but one that was intensely conservative, deeply religious, and preoccupied with the afterlife.
Unfortunately, Woolley’s reconstruction from three-quarters of a century ago cannot be verified: his excavation notes are inadequate for the purpose. Fossils, Cities, and Civilizations 5 Discovery Tutankhamun’s Tomb, Egypt, 1922 The small party of archaeologists and onlookers stood in front of the doorway that bore the seals of the long-dead pharaoh. They had waited six long years, from 1917 to 1922, for this moment. Silently, Howard Carter pried a hole through the ancient plaster. Hot air rushed out of the small cavity and massaged his face.
Between Past and Present: Archaeology, Ideology, and Nationalism in the Modern Middle East by Neil Silberman