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What the Egyptians scribbled on their walls


G. Maspero (1), New Light on Ancient Egypt, New York 1909.  


It is certain that tourists are gradually spoiling the monuments of Egypt by writing their names on them in big or small letters. Persons of taste are irritated when they come across them, and the directors of the antiquities exhaust themselves in searching for hard words in which to censure such practices in their reports. It is their duty to do this, and I, like the rest, have done my share. And yet, if the archaeologists and historians of to-day would reflect a little, what fine fellows these inscriptions-makers are, and what an amount of ingenious work they are preparing for the students of the future! Henri Durand of Paris inscribed his name in 1882 on one of the blocks of the great pyramid. John Brown cut his in the neighbourhood in 1883, Fritz Müller scrawled his above the other two in 1884, and they may be tracked from Gizeh to the first cataract through the temples and tombs; towards the end of the journey they become bolder, and each ventures on admiring or humorous reflections in accordance with the spirit of his nation, they are too near us to seem anything but let a hundred years pass by, and distance will endow them with a certain prestige. A century ago, French soldiers quartered at Edfou, in the dark chambers of the pylon, amused themselves by tracing legends and drawing on the wall. Names dates, hearts burning with protestations of affection for their native land, a fine windmill that still exists, perhaps, in some corner of France are to be seen; the cavalry fraternized with the infantry in its love of the native soil and its contempt for grammar, but I do not know which of the two arms proclaimed in its pride, The French are conquerors everywhere. It is a piece of France which still lives in the shade of the old temple of Horus, light cavalry, grenadiers, light infantry, a hundred or a hundred and fifty men in all, and a very slight effort of the imagination suffices to see them in the course of their monotonous life. Drill, continual sentry duty at the top of the two towers that guard the Nile, or the outlets in the Libyan desert, reconnoitring in the still insubordinate villages in order to reach the posts of Esneh or Daraou, skirmishes, and perchance a comrade mournfully buried in the little cemetery on the north side of the town;……..



RDK 322-Photo: Roger O. De Keersmaecker (1986)






p. 151

The Egyptians of Pharaoh travelled at times, and, like Cook’s tourists, scribbled with all their might on the monuments they came across. The pyramid of Meydoum had so stoutly resisted the excavators, even Mariette (2).that it was thought to be untouched, and great things were expected of it. When I entered it in 1881, the first thing I saw was a scribe’s name, the scribe Sokari, written in ink on the ledge of the door, and by its side mention of his colleague, Amonmosou. They scribbled under the XVIIIth dynasty, more than 2000 years after the pyramid was built, and they went to see the tomb of king Snofrouî just as we visit that of Charlemagne at Aix-la-Chapelle……



RDK 281-Photo: Roger O. De Keersmaecker (1986)



p. 156

I do not complain, for these scratchings tell us new things about the old Egyptian people, so long buried, so lately exhumed. How, then can we continue to blame the European tourists who disfigure the walls, when we copy and study with such tender care the slightest scribblings of their ancient predecessors?



M. L. Bierbrier, Who was Who in Egyptology, London 1995

(1)p. 278

(2)p. 275