Digging for Diversity in Egyptology: Assessing the “Lost” Arabic Diaries of the Harvard University-Boston Museum of Fine Arts Excavations in Egypt and Sudan, 1913–1947

Peter Manuelian, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

As with many humanities fields, Egyptology faces challenges in relevance to current public and intellectual discourse, including contemporary social justice movements. The year 2022 presented a unique opportunity for reassessments in the field, as it marked both the centenary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 and the bicentenary of the decipherment of hieroglyphs in 1822. This project aims to raise awareness about the role of Arabic-speaking communities in Egyptian archaeology, thanks to a unique collection of 73 Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition diaries written by a group of highly specialized archaeological technicians from the town of Quft, Upper Egypt. No other known collection of source material documents the first-person experience of Quftis in archaeology to such a detailed level. The HU–MFA Expedition diaries provide unique potential for realigning the history of Egyptology with critical discourse in the humanities and social sciences. This workshop brings together a diverse focus group of scholars from Egypt, Europe, and the US to discuss best practices for making the Arabic diaries accessible to the scholarly community and wider public. Planned outcomes include an edited volume incorporating textual, historical, archaeological, and linguistic analyses of a representative sample of the diary manuscripts; additional scholarly publications; and a digital collection, open access website, and/or virtual exhibit equipped with annotation and social network analysis tools.​