Areas of Research Expertise

Histories of Science and Empire; Global and Transnational Science; Colonial Archaeology and Fieldwork; Victorian Egyptology and Prehistory; 


Archaeology in Ruins:

Victorian Egyptology and the Making of a Colonial Field Science

Book Manuscript, in preparation

Archaeology in Ruins provides a new account of the origins of fieldwork in the Nile Delta in the second half of the nineteenth century. The book traces the development of Egyptology from an activity that could be practiced long-distance through networks of informants to one that required first-hand excavation experience. I argue that the move towards first-hand fieldwork was not simply about the implementation of new methodologies, as previous histories have suggested, but rather a rite of passage for archaeologists to become expert witnesses to the credibility of excavations. Moreover, the process of publicizing archaeological fieldwork through popular literature became a crucial mechanism for erasing the contributions of local labourers relative to “heroic” British archaeologists.

Hekekyan Fieldwork.jpg

Ancient Egypt and the Geological Antiquity of Man, 1847-1863

Journal Article

Figure 1.tiff

Shit Archaeology: Ancient Fertilizer and the Manufacture of British Egyptology, 1878-1906

Journal Article

Read More

Conflicting Chronologies: Victorian Debates about Egyptian Prehistory

Exhibition, Whipple Library, University of Cambridge (April to September, 2019)

The deep human past was a key arena for Victorian intellectual controversy. Were humans older than the biblical tradition of 6,000 years? Where had we come from? Were we one or many species? Above all, who had the expertise to provide authoritative chronologies? The term ‘prehistory’ first appeared in English in 1851. Ancient Egypt soon emerged as a critical juncture between prehistoric and historic time and became a symbolic place of debate. Egypt was believed to be the source of ancient wisdom and precise measurement, a critical region for linguistic development, and the origin of agriculture and metalworking. For Victorians, the Nile Valley was ‘the cradle of western civilisation.’ Amid British control of semi-colonial Egypt, the period saw enormous changes to studies of human antiquity. British geologists, philologists, ethnologists, anthropologists, archaeologists and astronomers identified traces of the remote human past in the region. All attempted to answer the question: who lived in Egypt before the pharaohs? This exhibit showcases some of the texts that debated the age, origin and development of early Egyptian civilisation. It illuminates how Egyptian materials and labour informed these cross-disciplinary disputes.