A diverse group of institutions have been established in Egypt and in other countries for the study of ancient Egypt; some are official branches of various governments, but others are private, nonprofit foundations or organizations sponsored by their members (see table 1).

Organized, foreign archaeological research in Egypt began in 1798 with the establishment of the Institut d'Égypte, founded by French scholars of the Commission for Arts and Sciences of the Army of the Orient. They had accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte's military expedition to Egypt in that year. In 1799, they had organized field expeditions throughout Egypt to record the ancient monuments, continuing their work until the French army was defeated by the British in 1801; they were then evacuated from Egypt, and the institute was disbanded. Returning to France, members of the expedition begin to publish accounts and memoirs. Most notably, in 1802, Dominique Vivant Denon published Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypte pendant les campagnes du général Bonaparte. The official publication of the expedition was the encyclopedic and lavishly illustrated Description de l' Égypte; begun in 1803, the first volume appeared in 1808 and the final volume in 1826. The completed publication comprised ten volumes of text, ten folio volumes of plates, and three elephant folios of maps and plates. The institute was reorganized as the Institut égyptien in 1862 in Cairo, under the patronage of the khedive of Egypt, and it became again the Institut d'Égypte in 1918. It served as a forum for its scholar members, both foreign and Egyptian, who presented their research and published their work in its Bulletin and Mémoires. After 1955, its activities were greatly reduced, although the building and library containing some fifteen thousand volumes remain.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, a number of scientific expeditions had been dispatched to Egypt by European governments and universities to record, study, and collect. In 1858, an official antiquities service was established by the khedive of Egypt, and he named as director Auguste Mariette, a French Egyptologist. Not until 1880 was another permanent research institute established in Egypt. At the prompting of Gaston Maspero, an Egyptologist who soon succeeded Mariette as head of the antiquities service, the French government established the École Française du Caire. In 1898, it was renamed the Institut français d'archéologie orientale du Caire (IFAO) and was moved to the historic Mounira Palace in Cairo.

Table 1. Foreign Research Centers in Egypt

Date Institution Sponsoring Country
1798 Institut d'Égypte France
1880 Institut Français d'archéologie orientale du Caire France
1882 Egypt Exploration Society United Kingdom
1907 Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo Germany
1923 Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth Belgium
1923 Société Française d'Égyptologie France
1924 The Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago United States
1931 Schweizerisches Institut für ägyptische Bauforschung und Altertumskunde Switzerland
1939 Griffith Institute United Kingdom
1948 American Research Center in Egypt United States
1955 Centre d'Études et de documentation sur l'ancienne Égypte, Collection Scientifique Egypt
1958 Czech Institute of Egyptology Czech Republic
1959 Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology Poland
1967 Centre Franco-Égyptian d'Étude des Temples de Karnak Egypt and France
1971 Netherlands Institute for Archaeology and Arabic Studies in Cairo The Netherlands
1971 Austrian Archaeological Institute Austria
1970s Archaeological Section, Italian Cultural Institute Italy
1979 Canadian Institute in Egypt Canada
1989 Australian Centre for Egyptology Australia
1993 Institute for Nautical Archaeology—Egypt United States
1994 McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research United Kingdom

Under Maspero, who remained until 1883, the scholars of the École had begun a program of copying texts and drawing and photographing monuments, and their first publication appeared in 1883. Under the succeeding director, Émile Chassinat, who remained until 1911, the institute began an extensive program of excavations all over Egypt and established its press. This press has now published more than seven hundred volumes, in twenty-five series, on ancient and modern Egypt, as well as several annual bulletins dedicated to specific aspects of the institute's research. Excavations and documentation projects have included the complete temples of Edfu, Esna, Deir el-Shelwit, and Dendera, the village and tombs at Deir el-Medina, excavations at the temples of Medamud, Tod, and Karnak North, and at several sites in the oases of the Western Desert. As part of the UNESCO campaign for the salvage of the Nubian monuments, the institute has excavated the temple of Ramesses II at Wadi es-Sebua. The institute headquarters includes a library of more than sixty thousand volumes, the buildings of the institute's press, and the support facilities for the field expeditions. Young scholars, called pensionnaires, are appointed to the institute for multiyear fellowships, which allow them to do research in Egypt. Fieldwork is carried out by the chargés de mission—professional archaeologists, architects, and Egyptologists attached to the institute.

In 1882, to take advantage of excavation opportunities in Egypt that were provided by the establishment of the antiquities service, the Egypt Exploration Society was founded by Amelia Edwards, an English novelist and journalist, with Reginald Stuart Poole, a numismatist and nephew of Edward Lane, the great scholar of modern Egypt. Through the subscription of its members, the society provided support for excavations and recording in Egypt and for the publication of this research. It sponsored the work of Édouard Naville at Deir el-Bahri, John Pendlebury and Henri Frankfort at Tell el-Amarna, Amice Calverley at the temple of Sety I at Abydos, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt at Oxyrhynchus, Walter B. Emery at the Middle Kingdom fortresses of Nubia and the Early Dynastic cemetery at Saqqara, and William Matthew Flinders Petrie at many sites in Egypt. The society continues to work at Memphis, Saqqara, Amarna, and at Qasr Ibrim, south of Aswan on an island in Lake Nasser. Head-quartered in London, the society established a Cairo office for the first time in 1993. It also maintains a permanent expedition house at Saqqara. The London office includes a library of twenty-five thousand volumes and expedition archives. The publications of the society include the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, which was begun in 1914, and the popular magazine Egyptian Archaeology, which was begun in 1991, as well as more than two hundred scholarly reports and studies in five series.

The Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo, was founded in 1907 as the Imperial German Institute for Egyptian Archaeology, with Ludwig Borchardt as its first director. Borchardt had been carrying out research in Egypt since 1899, as scientific attaché for Egyptology at the German embassy. Research before World War I and between the two world wars focused on Thebes, Tell el-Amarna, and the prehistoric site of Merimde. The institute, whose library and archives were dispersed during World War II, was reestablished in 1957 in a new headquarters in Cairo, with the donation of the library and archives of Ludwig Keimer. This facility serves as a base for the fieldwork of the institute at Dahshur, Thebes, Elephantine, Abydos, Buto, and Abu Mina; work also continues in the study and restoration of Islamic monuments in Egypt. During the Nubian Salvage Campaign, the institute supervised the study and relocation of the Kalabsha temple. The institute publishes an annual journal, the Mitteilungen des Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo, and the results of its research and excavations in several series: the Sonderschriften, the Abhandlungen, and the Archäologische Veröffentlichungen.

The 1922 discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun spurred the activities of other foreign Egyptologists, resulting in the foundation, soon after, of other research institutes. In 1923, Jean Capart, the Belgian Egyptologist and art historian, established the Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth at the request of Queen Élisabeth of Belgium after she had visited Tutankhamun's tomb. Headquartered in Brussels, where it maintains a library of Egyptology and papyrology, it has sponsored excavations in Thebes and at Elkab, a major temple site south of Thebes. In addition to an annual journal, Chronique d'Égypte, the foundation has published more than fifty volumes on the art, archaeology, and literature of ancient Egypt and more than thirty volumes on papyrology and Christian Egypt.

The Société Française d'Égyptologie was founded in 1923 by Étienne Drioton, with its headquarters at the Collège de France. Like the Institut d'Égypte, it meets several times each year for the presentation of papers by its members; these are published in the bulletin of the society, which was begun in 1955. It also publishes the scholarly journal Revue d'Égyptologie, established in 1933.

The Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago (popularly known as Chicago House), was established in Luxor in 1924 by James Henry Breasted. It was organized to record the inscriptions and scenes on the monuments of Thebes that, owing to human and natural factors, were rapidly decaying. It worked first on the temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu and developed a method of recording that combined the use of large-format photography and line drawings by a team of artists and Egyptologist-epigraphers to record large-scale reliefs and produce precise facsimiles. This has become known as the Chicago House Method and is particularly suited to monuments for which tracing would be impractical or for those with substantial changes and alterations. In addition, archaeological and architectural surveys were also carried out on monuments that required excavation as part of the recording process. That survey has produced eighteen volumes, many of them large folios, recording the mortuary temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu. It has also recorded reliefs and inscriptions in the temples of Karnak and Luxor and the Theban tomb of Kheruef. As part of the Nubian salvage campaign, it recorded the temple at Beit el-Wali. Present work involves the cleaning and conservation of monuments that are also being recorded. At its headquarters in Luxor, called Chicago House, it maintains a library of more than fourteen thousand volumes, the only Egyptological library south of Cairo, as well as an archive of some sixteen thousand negatives and about twenty thousand prints.

The Schweizerisches Institut für ägyptische Bauforschung und Altertumskunde was founded in Cairo in 1931, by Ludwig Borchardt, who had also been the first director of the Imperial German Institute. Administered by a private foundation, it maintains a headquarters and library in Cairo. Under Borchardt, a research program was established that emphasized the excavation, documentation, and study of the architectural remains of ancient Egypt. The institute has excavated at Elephantine (jointly with the German Institute) since 1969, at the funerary temple of Merenptah in Thebes since 1971, and at Pelusium in the Nile Delta. Documentation projects have included Philae, Syene/Aswan, and Lake Moeris in the Faiyum. The institute publishes its research in its series Beiträge fur ägyptische Bauforschung und Altertumskunde and in collaboration with the German Institute.

The Griffith Institute, located in the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, was founded in 1939 by the bequest of Francis Llewellyn Griffith, the noted British philologist and translator of Egyptian texts. Its library of more than thirty thousand volumes is based on the libraries of Griffith, Walter E. Crum, A. H. Sayce, and Alan Gardiner. Its archives include the original records of Howard Carter's excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun as well as the papers of Alan Gardiner, Battiscombe Gunn, and Jaroslav Černý. Its influential publication program has produced the Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings, which continues to appear in revised editions. Alan Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar and R. O. Faulkner's A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian are used by most students who learn ancient Egyptian. Its Tut'ankhamun's Tomb Series has made available many aspects of the finds from the tomb that remained unpublished at Carter's death in 1939.

With the advent of World War II, large-scale excavations by universities and museums ended, such as those by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. The war sharply curtailed the activities of the foreign research institutes of both Europe and Egypt. After the war ended, an American research institute was established in Egypt to take the place of the prewar museum excavations. This, the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), was founded in 1948 by a consortium of museums and universities to provide a base for work in Egypt. The center in Cairo assists the expeditions of its member institutions, provides a fellowship program both for students and advanced scholars, and publishes the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, a newsletter, and field reports. Expeditions working from the center have excavated throughout Egypt at Thebes, Hierakonpolis, Giza, Abydos, Mendes, Kom el-Hisn, and many other sites. The center was expanded to include scholarly work in medieval and modern Egypt and is now actively involved in the conservation of Egyptian monuments, both ancient and medieval, throughout Egypt. At the Cairo center, it maintains a library of more than fifteen thousand volumes and a computer center.

In 1955, with the threat of the Nile's inundation of the Nubian monuments, which would result from the new Aswan High Dam, a research institute was founded in Cairo, the Centre d'Études et de documentation sur l'ancienne Égypte, Collection Scientifique (CEDAE). It was established jointly by the Egyptian government and UNESCO. Mobilized to study, document, and salvage the archaeological remains of Nubia—and working in collaboration with international scholars—this center has studied and recorded the temples of Nubia, including Abu Simbel, Amada, Debod, Derr, Garf Hussein, Dendur, and Kalabsha. Its scholars have also documented the graffiti of the Theban area, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II—the Ramesseum—and several tombs in the Valley of the Queens. Through its publication program, it has produced more than seventy-five volumes on this research.

In 1958, the Czech Institute of Egyptology was founded by the Ministry of Culture of the Czechoslovak Republic. From its base in the Czech embassy in Cairo, it has worked almost exclusively at the site of Abusir, the royal necropolis of the fifth dynasty, particularly at the great mastaba of the vizier Ptah-shepses. In Nubia, it helped to document the ancient rock inscriptions. At Charles University's Czech Institute of Egyptology in Prague, its resources include the eleven-thousand-volume Jaroslav Černý Library, as well as archives of field records. It has published the results of its excavations at Abusir, as well as studies on the Egyptian antiquities kept in Czech museums and collections.

The Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw was established in 1959 by Kazimierz Michalowski, a specialist in the art of ancient Egypt. It maintains a permanent mission in Cairo and has worked closely with the Egyptian antiquities authorities on long-term joint projects of documentation, excavation, and restoration, most notably the restoration of the temples of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III at Deir el-Bahri in Thebes; it also works in the Delta, at the sites of Tell Atrib and Marina el-Alamein, and in the seaport of Alexandria, conducting both excavations and restoration projects. It has published the reports of its work at Deir el-Bahri and at Alexandria, and its journal Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean was begun in 1989.

In 1967, the Centre Franco-Égyptian d'Étude des Temples de Karnak was established jointly by the Egyptian antiquities authorities and the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), the French national scientific organization. Devoted solely to the restoration, study, and preservation of the Great Temple complex of the god Amun at Karnak in Thebes, its permanent staff includes not only Egyptologists but also architects, engineers, conservators, artists, and photographers. In consolidating the Ninth and Tenth Pylons of the temple, they recovered thousands of blocks with relief decoration (talatat) from the dismantled temples of the Amarna period. In addition, they have reconstructed other monuments within the complex, excavated areas that now appear to be vacant, and studied the effects on the monuments of climate, a rising water table, and human action. The results of their work are published in the Cahiers de Karnak.

In 1971, Leiden University established the Netherlands Institute for Archaeology and Arabic Studies in Cairo. It is now supported by a consortium of Dutch and Flemish universities, and it maintains a center in Cairo with a library and support facilities for scholars. Like the American Research Center, the Netherlands institute enables its member institutions and students to conduct research and excavations in Egypt. It provides academic programs in Egypt for students from its member universities and has supported excavations and research projects at Tell Ibrahim Awad in the Delta, at Berenike on the Red Sea, at Saqqara, and in the Wadi Natrun. It also assists the Tutankhamun Clothing Project and the Multilingual Egyptological Thesaurus Project. In 1996, it established a new publication series in collaboration with Leiden University.

The interests of Italian Egyptologists, museums, and universities are facilitated by the Archaeological Section of the Italian Cultural Institute in Cairo. Established in the 1970s, it maintains an archaeological library of six thousand volumes available to scholars, and it sponsors both lectures and exhibitions at the institute.

The Austrian Archaeological Institute in Cairo was founded in 1971 by Manfred Bietak. It has committed itself to long-term excavations of Tell ed-Dabʿa in the Delta. The identification of Tell ed-Dabʿa as the site of the Hyksos capital, Avaris, has made important contributions to the understanding of the Hyksos rule of Egypt and with Egypt's relationship to its neighbors in the Levant and the Aegean. The institute has also excavated at Tell el-Hebua in Sinai and at Thebes, surveying the monumental tombs of the Late period. At its offices in Cairo, it has a library of five thousand volumes and support facilities for affiliated scholars. Through the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Vienna, it publishes the results of its fieldwork; in 1990, it established the new journal Ägypten und Levante.

The Canadian Institute in Egypt was established in 1979 by Geoffrey E. Freeman and the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, under the auspices of the Canadian Mediterranean Institute. It provides assistance to scholars and expeditions from Canadian museums and universities. Its members have conducted long-term excavations and archaeological surveys in the Dakhla Oasis, in the Wadi Tumilat, at Pithom (Tell el-Maskhuta), at East Karnak, the site of the dismantled temples of the Amarna period, at Mendes in the Delta, and in the Dongola Reach in Sudan. Preliminary reports of these expeditions are published in the Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

The Australian Centre for Egyptology was founded in 1989. Based at Macquarie University in Sydney, it maintains a branch in Egypt, which promotes and coordinates the Egyptological research of the various Australian institutions working in Egypt. It also publishes their results in the Bulletin that was established in 1989 and in two series of excavation reports and research monographs. The center's scholars have excavated a number of important cemeteries: el-Hammamiya and el-Hagarsa near Sohag in Upper Egypt; in the necropolis at Thebes; and in the Teti pyramid cemetery at Saqqara.

The Institute for Nautical Archaeology-Egypt established a branch in Egypt in 1993. Egypt has rich, largely unexplored resources for underwater archaeology, both in the Mediterranean and on the Red Sea coast. The institute has converted five buildings at the National Maritime Museum in Alexandria to the Alexandria Conservation Laboratory for Submerged Antiquities. The Institute of Nautical Archaeology is a U.S.-based research organization that was founded in 1973 by George Bass, who founded the field of underwater archaeology in the Middle East.

New research institutes continue to establish programs in Egypt. The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, established at the University of Cambridge in 1994, places particular emphasis on collaborative and multidisciplinary scientific research in archaeology. Egyptologists working with the McDonald Institute are conducting research and excavation at Tell el-Amarna, Saqqara, and Memphis. This research is supported by the institute's laboratories for geoarchaeology, archaeozoology, and bioarchaeology as well as the study collections of the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Department of Archaeology at Cambridge.

Research and excavation in Egypt has not been limited to the activities of these institutes and centers. Scholarly work is also being done by professionals from other foreign museums and universities, including those of Spain and Japan.

See also EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS; EGYPTOLOGY; MUSEUMS; and biographies of Carter, Champollion, and Petrie.


  • American Research Center in Egypt. Forty Years of Bridging Time and Culture, New York, 1987. Brochure giving a history of the organization and an overview of its activities.
  • Beaucour, Fernand, Yves Laissus, and Chantal Orgogozo. The Discovery of Egypt: Artists, Travellers and Scientists. Paris, 1990. A well-illustrated account of the French scholars who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt.
  • Bell, Lanny. “New Kingdom Epigraphy.” In The American Discovery of Ancient Egypt: Essays, edited by Nancy Thomas, pp. 97–108. Los Angeles, 1996. An account by a former director of the history of Chicago House and its epigraphic method.
  • Bierbrier, Morris L. Who Was Who in Egyptology. 3d rev. ed. London, 1995. A comprehensive biographical resource of scholars and travelers who studied ancient Egypt.
  • Breasted, Charles. Pioneer to the Past: The Story of James Henry Breasted. New York, 1943. A biography of the founder of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Epigraphic Survey of the Oriental Institute, popularly known as Chicago House.
  • Desroches Noblecourt, Christiane. La Grande Nubiade ou le parcours d'une égyptologue. Paris, 1992. An account by one of the participating Egyptologists of the founding of both the Centre d'Études et de documentation sur l'ancienne Égypte and the Centre Franco-Égyptien d'Étude des Temples de Karnak.
  • Dunham, Dows. Recollections of an Egyptologist. Boston, 1972. A brief account by one of its founders of how and why ARCE was established.
  • James, T. G. H., ed. Excavating in Egypt: The Egypt Exploration Society 1882–1982. Chicago, 1982. The official history of the society as prepared for its centenary.
  • Lauffray, Jean, and Serge Sauneron. “La Création d'un Centre Franco-Égyptien pour l'Étude des Temples de Karnak.” Kêmi 18 (1968), 103–104. Provides a summary of the reasons for its establishment and the organizational program.
  • McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. Archaeology at Cambridge. Cambridge, 1994. Brochure describing the institute's multidisciplinary archaeological and scientific research.
  • Netherlands Institute for Archaeology and Arabic Studies in Cairo. Cairo, 1996. Brochure prepared for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the institute.
  • Roemer, Hans Robert. “Relations in the Humanities between Germany and Egypt: On the Occasion of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the German Institute of Archaeology in Cairo (1907–1982).” In Ägypten: Dauer und Wandel, pp. 1–6. Sonderschrift 18, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo. Mainz, 1985.
  • Säve-Söderbergh, Torgny. Temples and Tombs of Ancient Nubia: The International Rescue Campaign at Abu Simbel, Philae and Other Sites. London, 1987. An account of the founding of the Centre d'Études et de documentation sur l'ancienne Égypte at the beginning of the Nubian Salvage Campaign.
  • Vercoutter, Jean. “Introduction.” Le Livre du Centenaire de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale du Caire 1880–1980. Mémoires publiés par les membres de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale du Caire, 104, pp. vii–xxv. Cairo, 1980. The official history of the institute as prepared for its centenary.
  • Whitehouse, Helen, and Jaromir Malek. “A Home for Egyptology in Oxford.” The Ashmolean 16 (1989), 8–9. Article on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Griffith Institute.

Susan J. Allen