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Department of Egypt and Sudan
The British Museum
Great Russell Street
The Department of Egypt and Sudan houses an extensive collection of objects.
They illustrate the cultures of the Nile Valley, from the Neolithic period (about 10,000 BC) until the present day. The Department also houses an important archive relating to Egyptology and Nubian Studies, and has one of the leading research libraries in this subject area.
Alongside the permanent display, the collection, archive and library are made accessible through touring exhibitions, loans, by appointment and via Collection online.
The Department’s research staff develop exhibitions on aspects of the cultures of Egypt and Sudan, while also leading research on particular themes related to the collection, resulting in publications for both scholarly and other audiences.
Fieldwork in Egypt and Sudan, often in collaboration with UK and international institutions, forms part of this research. The Department also provides training programmes and research scholarships for scholars, curators and archaeologists from Egypt and Sudan.
History of the collection
Objects from Ancient Egypt have formed part of the collection of the British Museum since its beginning. About 150 items from Hans Sloane's original collection were from Egypt.
Today the collection includes more than 100,000 objects, including a large collection of sculpture dating back to 10,000 BC.
European interest in Egypt began to grow after Napoleon Bonaparte invaded in 1798, and his scholars recorded information about the country.
When the British defeated the French in Egypt in 1801, a number of antiquities were ceded in the treaty. In 1802, they were presented to the Museum in the name of George III. The most famous of these was the Rosetta Stone.
Egypt then came under the control of Mohammed Ali, who was determined to welcome foreigners into the country. As a result, foreign consuls began to form collections of antiquities.
Henry Salt, Britain's consul, created a large collection with his agent Belzoni, who was responsible for the removal of the colossal bust of Ramesses II, known as the 'Younger Memnon', presented to the British Museum in 1817.
Salt's two collections formed the core of the department’s holdings and in the 1830s many other important collections of papyri and antiquities were acquired. By 1866 the collection consisted of around 10,000 objects.
Collection and acquisition
Antiquities from controlled excavations started to come to the Museum in the late 19th century as a result of the work of the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society).
The efforts of E.A. Wallis Budge (Keeper, 1894–1924) were another major source of antiquities. Budge regularly visited Egypt and built up a wide-ranging collection of papyri and funerary material. When he retired, the collection contained about 57,000 objects.
In the following years there were more limited programmes of excavation and today antiquities are no longer exported from Egypt, although the work of research and study on the collection continues, including archaeological fieldwork in Egypt and Sudan.
In recognition for the British Museum’s involvement in salvage excavations around the Fourth Cataract in Sudan, the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums has donated collections of study material from sites in the area.
- Julie Renee Anderson - Assistant Keeper (Curator), Ancient Sudan and Egyptian Nubia
- Daniel Antoine - Assistant Keeper (Curator), Physical Anthropology
- Susanne Beck - Curator: Egyptian Written Culture
- Valentina Gasperini - Project Curator: Amara West (Ceramics)
- Cristina Giancristofaro - Curator: ResearchSpace
- Loretta Kilroe - Project Curator: Sudan & Nubia
- Manuela Lehmann - Project Curator: Amara West and ResearchSpace
- Marcel Marée - Assistant Keeper (Curator), Ancient Egypt; Sculpture. Lead Curator: Circulating Artefacts
- Elisabeth O'Connell - Assistant Keeper (Curator), Byzantine World; Coptic.
- Dominic Oldman - Head of ResearchSpace
- Ilona Regulski - Assistant Keeper (Curator), Ancient Egypt; Papyri
- Neal Spencer - Keeper of Nile Valley & Mediterranean Collections
- Diane Tanase - Curator: ResearchSpace Projects
- John H Taylor - Assistant Keeper (Curator), Ancient Egypt; Funerary archaeology
- Marie Vandenbeusch - Project Curator: Egyptian touring exhibitions
- Rebecca Whiting - Project Curator: Bioarchaeology
The work of the department is supported by a team of Collections Managers and administrative staff.
The collection is a vital resource for continuing research. Departmental staff and other scholars study particular areas of the collection, extending our understanding of the people, history, art, culture and technology of successive phases of the Nile Valley.
Other research has focused on more wide-ranging aspects of Egyptology, including:
- Excavations and fieldwork
- Scientific analysis and investigation
- Historical subjects
- The interaction of ancient Egypt with neighbouring cultures
Some of this research has been presented in a series of International Colloquia organised by the department.
We publish some of our research in full catalogues, so that information is available to others. We also publish articles in journals, and in lectures inside and outside the Museum.
The collection has been digitised, to create records of the entire holdings. This has given us access to different classes of material, assisting external scholars, students or the public.
The British Museum makes a substantial contribution to excavation and fieldwork throughout the world, through its own projects and through collaboration with other institutions.
Find out about some of our research projects below.
Lectures and colloquium
Since 1992, the British Museum has hosted an annual keynote lecture presenting the latest research on Egypt and Nubia. The lecture is made possible through the generosity of Raymond and Beverly Sackler and is called The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Egyptology.
The lecture is accompanied by the Annual Egyptological Colloquium on a related theme, with invited speakers from around the world. An overview of past lectures and colloquia provides a glimpse of how research on the cultures of the Nile Valley has developed in the last two decades.