Credibility, civility, and the archaeological dig house in mid-1950’s Egypt

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This article argues that forms of civility governing who possessed the credibility to carry out archaeological fieldwork in Egypt changed during the post-Second World War era of decolonization. Incorporating Arabic sources, the article focuses on the preparation of a dig house used during an excavation run by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania at the site of Mit Rahina, Egypt, in the mid-1950s. The study demonstrates how the colonial genealogies of such structures converged with political changes heralded by the rise of Egypt's President Nasser. Preparing the dig house, Euro-American archaeologists involved with the excavation had to abide by social norms practiced by the Egyptians who had recently taken charge of the Department of Antiquities. Given that these norms often perpetuated older hierarchies of race, gender, and class, however, the article questions what the end of colonialism actually meant for archaeology in Egypt and elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-276
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Social Archaeology
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Civility
  • Egypt
  • class
  • credibility
  • decolonization
  • dig house
  • gender
  • race

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