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The French discover a new Ancient World...

Stranded in Egypt, Napoléon set up administration in a European way with the help of local nobles. He sent out Engineers and Scholars all throughout Egypt. It is thought that Napoléon visited the inner chambers of the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Archaeologists (originally scholars, adventurers and treasure-hunters, because archaeology as we know it today did not take shape yet) examined the antiquities of Ancient Egypt. They excavated tombs and collected mummies and papyri. These were all done in an unscientific manner. So many of the artifacts got destroyed. In fact, this process of destruction has been occurring even from the age of the Pharaohs themselves.


Description de L'Égypte

Frontispiece to Description de l'Égypte: A I, A Panoramic View of Egypt - From Alexandria to Phylae

On his return to Cairo in July 1799, the French scholar Vivant Denon gave Napoléon an account of everything he had seen, and showed him his illustrations. The future emperor then set up two special commissions of scholars whose task it was to measure and draw all the monuments observed by Denon, and to continue his researches. These commissions gathered the raw material for the massive Description de l'Égypte -- three volumes of plates and two volumes of text devoted to the natural history of Egypt. It was during the French Domination Period, in 1799, that the Rosetta Stone was discovered near the village of Al-Rashiid. This black stone had inscriptions from the Greek era of Egypt and contained edicts of the Ptolemaic rulers, in three scripts -- Hieroglyphics, Demotic and Greek.



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