Sunday, April 19, 2009
Important Historical Diary Found
Wow! 2009-04-15 15:34 200- year- old Egypt journal found Work is an exceptional find for Egyptologists (ANSA) - Pisa, April 15 - The 200-year-old travel diary of an Italian adventurer who explored Egypt and later guided the founders of Egyptology to key sites has been uncovered in this Tuscan city. The journal, accidentally unearthed during research into a groundbreaking historical expedition, was written by a Siena-born doctor, draughtsman and explorer named Alessandro Ricci, who set out for Egypt in 1817. Ricci's journal covered a five-year period until 1822, describing his adventures and experiences in detail. The document is particularly important as Ricci was a key figure in a later Franco-Tuscan expedition, led jointly by the French philologist who deciphered hieroglyphs, Jean-Francois Champollion, and a leading Italian Egyptologist Ippolito Rosellini. ''This is an exceptional find for the field of Egyptology,'' commented Marilina Betro, the professor heading the Pisa University team researching the Franco-Tuscan expedition. ''Ricci describes and draws those sites that had already been completely destroyed just a few years later, at the time of the Champollion-Rosellini expedition, which he was also part of. ''But as well as the monuments, he also describes the customs and habits of the people he met, the fighting strategies of armies, the condition of women and even the treatment of animals''. After leaving Siena in 1817, Ricci travelled to Egypt, exploring widely. He spent some months in Alexandria before journeying south to the area of Nubia, where he was eventually forced to turn around due to fighting in the area and the hostility of the local governor. He travelled to Cairo and in 1820 joined a military expedition organized by the Viceroy Muhammed Ali of Egypt to the Siwa Oasis. Here, he painstakingly copied inscriptions he found on the walls of the temple of Amun and mapped out the entire area around the oasis. Later that year he travelled to Suez and from there to Mount Sinai, where he spent some time at St Catherine's Monastery. In 1821, he returned to southern Egypt, joining another military expedition, this one led by the viceroy's son Ibrahim Pasha. He was eventually forced to cut short this trip as well, owing to the poor health of Ibrahim, whose doctor he had become. In 1822, Ricci returned to Italy and set to work organizing the drawings he had made and writing up his journal. Both would later be used by Champollion and Rosellini when they embarked on their Egyptian travels in 1828, accompanied by Ricci. Although the fact Ricci had written a diary was no secret, its whereabouts have been a mystery for decades. Ricci gave his journal to Champollion in 1827, prior to the Franco-Tuscan expedition, apparently believing the French expert would publish it. Champollion died in 1832, followed by Ricci two years later. Although Rosellini asked French authorities to return the journal in 1836, it remained in France. The diary then vanished for several decades until resurfacing in 1928, when an Italian architect working for King Fuad I of Egypt discovered the manuscript by accident in an ancient Cairo bookshop. He immediately bought it and showed it to the Italian Egyptologist Angelo Sammarco, who recognized its value and was keen to organize its publication. Sammarco published a synopsis of the diary in 1930 but never took the project any further. After he died in 1948, all trace of the journal vanished until it was rediscovered in Pisa University by researcher Daniele Salvoldi. ''Now, two centuries after it was written, our goal is to get this book published,'' said Betro. Betro and Salvoldi's determination, combined with Italy's commitment to Egyptology, with the world's largest collection of artefacts outside Egypt stored in Turin, mean that Ricci's dream could finally come true.