The long period of the ancient Egyptian civilization was in the decade 1950-60 illuminated – and sometimes very intensely – by a remarkable series of archaeological discoveries, which very rarely were of a fortuitous nature. On the contrary, it should be emphasized that the most significant innovations derive from areas that have been the subject of careful and organic research since the beginning of Egyptian archeology: that is, they are the result of a technical will and framed in a generally very precise historical problem..
According to directoryaah, the richest finds, consequently, concern the Archaic age. In Saqqārah, the English mission led by W. Emery worked in a royal necropolis of the 1st dynasty, which has come to assume paradigmatic importance as opposed to what had hitherto been the typical archaic royal necropolis in Abydos. They are constructions in unfired bricks, with walls with niches which still retain traces of polychromy in some cases, and which in one case carry a running bench all around the base, on which are effigies of clay bovine heads, equipped with real horns. These are elements foreign to the later Egyptian culture, which does not like this decorative flavor (and, of course, full of precise meanings in the magical and religious sphere). The fact that two rulers have a new tomb in Saqqārah in addition to the one already known in Abydos, suggests that the function of “King of the Valley and King of the Delta” which is typical of the Egyptian sovereign involves a double burial rite (one in the Valley in Abido, one in the Delta in Menfi); and from the larger dimensions of the Memphite tombs of Saqqārah it can be reasonably concluded that the Abidean tombs are in truth nothing other than cenotaphs.
A much more modest necropolis of the 1st dynasty was excavated by the Dutch (A. Klasens) at Abu Ro′ash. But at the end of the Archaic age – to the III dyn. – the discovery of the Egyptian Zakariya Goneim again in Saqqārah must also be attributed. It is a monument similar in structure to Gioser’s “Step Pyramid”, but which has not been completed. In the substructure was the alabaster sarcophagus, closed and empty. Feminine jewels show that a queen or princess had probably already been buried in this “pyramid” in the making. The name of Imhotep, written in red on the surrounding wall, recalls the architect of the nearby Gioser pyramid: a call of very dubious interpretation, and which adds to the problems that the discovery has posed,
Also in the Memphite necropolis, but in a more southern area, the excavations of Aḥmed Fakhri in the temple downstream of the pyramid of Snofru (IV din.) In Dahshūr have provided precious reliefs of bearers of offerings and representations of provinces: themes that will be classic in the Egyptian funerary art, and which are witnessed here for the first time. Unexpectedly, however, as in the funerary architecture of the temples of Gīzah (full 4th din.) The human figure and representations in general seem strictly banned.
Particularly sensational resonance had the discovery in Gīzah (1954) of two large wooden boats near the pyramid of Cheops, about 40 meters long (the one that was explored) and dismantled and deposited within a cavity cut in the rock (Egyptian excavations of Zakī Nūr ; the second cavity still to be explored). The restoration work gives valuable information on the nautical technique of the time; the name of Dedefra graffitied on a block of cover has ensured that he was the successor of Cheops, even if later he probably passed for usurper, and his tomb in Abu Ro′ash was therefore devastated and his memory was damned. Finally, in the Memphite necropolis of the ancient kingdom, the German-Swiss excavation (H. Stock, H. Ricke) at the solar temple of King Userkaf at Abū Sīr after having identified extremely deteriorated remains of the
This richness and variety of documentation is perhaps not available for the following ages. The excavations at Lisht by an American journalist (1958) refer to the Middle Kingdom, concluded in a very murky way and of which there is still no precise and reliable information.
The documentation for the new kingdom has been enriched thanks to Labib Habachi (1954) with an admirable document: a large intact stele that contains part of the official literary report relating to the expulsion of the Hyksôs undertaken by the Theban king Kamose (17th dyn.). We already had fragments of this relationship in another way; and the evaluation of this text – among the fundamentals in Egyptian history – is totally challenged by the new discovery.
The temple of Amenhotep III in Soleb (Sudan) (Italian mission M. Schiff Giorgini) and the temple complexes of Ramessese II and Seti I in Menfi (excavations of Aḥmed Badawy and the American Mission of Anthes) and in Abido (Egyptian excavations of Ghazuli) have been usefully explored. Of singular historical importance are the researches of Emery in Buhen (near Wādī Halfa), who in 1958 brought to light an Egyptian fortress in control of the Second Cataract, datable to the Middle Kingdom in its most ancient nucleus and to the new kingdom in its definitive form; and so a similar discovery by Labib Habachi (1954) near Marsa Matruh made known an Egyptian stronghold placed to guard the Libyan border under Ramessese II, giving body and monumental testimony to some vague allusions of contemporary texts and figurations.
The late age is better known to us thanks to the French excavations of North Karnak (1950), which have brought to light remains of the Ethiopian age, and to the American ones of Anthes in Memphis, where the premises for the mummification of the bull were found. Api, and its splendid ritual alabaster furniture, from the Saitic age: monuments of a very refined taste in the use of the precious material. The French, moreover (S. Sauneron, F. Daumas), have undertaken and continued the publication of the Greco-Roman temples of Esnah, of Kom Ombo, of Dandarah, which will be a source of knowledge for the Egyptian culture of late age and which together they will pass on news of much more ancient rituals and concepts crystallized in the priestly culture.
Alongside these discoveries or excavation campaigns, others with more technical or more specialized results are not lacking, even if we omit to mention them here. But particular mention cannot be made of the complex of problems that the project of a new large dam upstream of the First Cataract has posed to Egyptian archeology, which will bring the level of the Nile from 121 to 180 meters, thus completely submerging Nubia.. An urgent task is therefore the integral archaeological survey of the region, both by means of excavations and by means of documentation operations. The former were called by the Egyptian Antiquities Service to collaborate with foreigners; the Italians from the mission of the University of Milan explored the ruins of Ikhmindi, a stronghold of the Nobadis contemporary to the introduction of Christianity in the region (age of Justinian); the Germans of the Germanic Archaeological Institute in Cairo explored the remains of a Middle Kingdom settlement near Amada. The documentary work has been fundamentally entrusted, with a great breadth of setting and a wide international collaboration guaranteed by UNESCO, to a “Center de documentation et d’études sur l’histoire de art et de la civilization de Ancienne Égypte “which he has meticulously surveyed with copies of texts, architectural plans, photographs, descriptions, photogrammetric reliefs, casts, the complexes of Abū Simbel, Debod, Kalabshah and who continues his precious work in the other monumental centers.