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  • The life of Jacques de Morgan
  • Egypt (1892-1897)
  • An engineer among Egyptologists

Having earned a certain reputation for himself in the Caucasus, and despite not being an Egyptologist, Morgan was appointed director of the Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte. His appointment was set against a geopolitical context in which Britain and France shared the administration of Egypt between them.

The appointment of Jacques de Morgan

Jacques de Morgan was preceded as head of the Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte by two directors. The first, Gaston Maspero, was considered too Anglophile, while the second, Grébaut, was a little too open about his aversion to the British. This heightened Franco-British tensions and placed the Service des Antiquités égyptiennes in an awkward position.

It was under these trying circumstances that the French Consul General in Cairo met Jacques de Morgan, who made a strong impression on him. Already held in high esteem by Xavier Charmes, head of the office of the secretariat of the Ministry for Public Education, Morgan appeared, in 1892, to be an excellent alternative.

Fleeting glory

Jacques de Morgan was noted for the quality and efficiency of his administrative and scientific work, and he was even made an Officer of the Legion of Honour in 1896 for discovering the treasure of Dahshur. But cracks gradually began to appear in his relationship with both the British and French authorities. He entered into a dispute with the Inspector of Antiquities, Georges Foucart, whose father, Paul Foucart was a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres. Maspero also expressed his displeasure at the appointment, a feeling shared by most Egyptologists and academics. It all proved too much for Morgan and he left Egypt in 1897.