Engineering Archaeologists
(Click on the images to enlarge)

Devilliers
Edouard Devilliers du Terrage from Louis Reybaud, Histoire de l’expédition française en Égypte (Paris 1830-36) v. 8.
Jollois
Jean-Baptiste Prosper Jollois, from Louis Reybaud, Histoire de l’expédition française en Égypte (Paris 1830-36) v. 7.

Archaeology was not on the original agenda of the Institute of Egypt, but when engineers such as Jean-Baptiste Prosper Jollois and  Edouard Devilliers du Terrage saw the portfolio of Denon, they recognized a new outlet for their drafting and surveying talents. Over the strong objections of their supervisor Pierre-Simon Girard, who was civil engineer in chief and who believed his minions should be surveying irrigation ditches and not drawing antiquities, Jollois and Devilliers embarked on a campaign of capturing the Egyptian temples and monuments on paper, not with sketches like Denon’s, but with precise engineering drawings.

They began with Dendera, and made a complete topographic survey of the area. They then constructed careful elevation drawings, and finally, they attempted with their pencils to restore the monuments to their former glory. The expedition moved south and encountered, just as Denon had, the magnificance of Thebes, Edfu, and Philae. Working through the summer of 1799, Jollois, Devilliers, and other engineers, architects, and artists filled their notebooks with groundplans, elevations, restorations, and details of the wall carvings and hieroglyphics.

In September of 1799, the number of would-be archaeologists was considerably increased, with the arrival in upper Egypt of the two antiquities Commissions authorized by Napoleon before his departure for France. These included the engineers François-Charles Cécile and Edme Jomard, the architects Charles-Louis Balzac and Jean-Baptiste Lepère, and the artists Dutertre and Protain.

Most of the illustrations in the antiquities volumes of the Description would be done by this group. Lepere liked to do restorations, and his depiction of the Hypostyle Hall in the temple at Philae, printed in color, is one of the most famous illustrations in the Description. C├ęcile carefully drew the wall paintings in a small tomb at El Kab, which excited the savants because they showed ordinary people plowing their fields, sailing boats, and playing music.

artist admiring Colossus at Karnak
Artist admiring a Colossus at Karnak, from Description de l’Égypte Antiquités
The artists and engineers also took some pleasure in drawing each other at work, and in many of the illustrations one can spot Frenchmen carrying portfolios, as in this sketch by Dutertre of an expedition artist admiring a colossus at Karnak. The artists and engineers also took some pleasure in drawing each other at work, and in many of the illustrations one can spot Frenchmen carrying portfolios, as in the sketch by Dutertre of an expedition artist admiring a colossus at Karnak.

Dutertre performed another valuable service besides making memorable views of Philae, Karnak, and the pyramids at Giza. Whenever he could, he made pencil sketches of the members of the Commission, and of those in the military who were particularly helpful to the savants. These sketches would finally be published by Louis Reybaud in his Scientific and Military History of the French Expedition to Egypt, 1830-36. At the same time, Reybaud republished all of Denon’s sketches, which had been originally published in 1802.
Wall painting at El Kab
Wall painting at El Kab, from Description de l’Égypte Antiquités



^ Back to the Top

Related Links


This exhibition is made possible with the generous support of the J.E. Dunn Construction Company.