This exhibition provides a new perspective on the famous Prussian expedition down the Nile, which set out from Alexandria in 1842. The show revolves around a range of objects and materials that were brought back from the trip, and looks at the influence they had on the development of the new discipline of Egyptology. Particular attention is paid to everyday working practices, the methodologies applied, and the problems associated with such an undertaking.
On 18 September 1842, all the members of the Royal Prussian Expedition met up at the harbour of Alexandria, before diving into the world of the Orient. For the next three years, they would investigate the antiquities to be found along the Nile at the behest of Frederick William IV, King of Prussia. Their mission was to lay the foundations for a new scholarly discipline. It had been 20 years since Jean-François Champollion’s had deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics, making the inscriptions of this ancient culture on the banks of the Nile legible and comprehensible again.
Groundbreaking Discoveries for Egyptology
At the time, Egyptology was still in its infancy. But that would soon change – in no small part thanks to the findings of this expedition. From 1849 to 1859, the groundbreaking scholarly documentation of the research trip was published in 12 enormous volumes, featuring 894 illustrated plates; a monumental project that was likewise funded by Frederick William IV. And from 1850 onwards, the Egyptian objects brought back by the expedition were displayed to the Berlin public at the Neues Museum.
From Alexandria to Sudan
Before this expedition, no other major national venture had been able to advance so far south. Lepsius and Abeken followed the course of the Blue Nile past Sennar into the tropical regions of present-day Sudan. They were searching for Egyptian artefacts, but also collected animals and acquired everyday objects from the region.
A special exhibition by the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in collaboration with the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities’s Ancient Egyptian Dictionary Project Archive and the Ernst-Litfaß-Schule – OSZ Mediengestaltung und Medientechnologie.
S. Grallert and J. Helmbold-Doyé (eds.), Abenteuer am Nil: Preußen und die Ägyptologie 1842–1845, Kulturverlag Kadmos.