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  • The Treasure of Dahshur (1894)

The site of Dahshur, thought to be an extension of the Saqqara necropolis, is on the west bank of the Nile, 40 kilometres south of Cairo. It includes a 12th dynasty burial complex dating from the Middle Kingdom. Discovered by John Perring in 1839, it was excavated by Lepsius and Maspero, and then Jacques de Morgan.

Discovery

The site consists of a main pyramid, flanked by seven smaller lateral pyramids. Jacques de Morgan was the first to discover the entrance to the pyramid and to excavate the royal burial vault, attributed to Senusret III. He also explored a gallery of tombs, four of which were attributed to a queen,  Mereret, and three princesses, Senetsenebtysy, Menet and Sithathor, where Morgan found some impressive jewellery in two gold-inlaid wooden chests.

Treasure

The treasure discovered by Morgan included brilliantly crafted jewellery made with rare and colourful materials such as gold, carnelian, emerald, lapis lazuli and amethyst. He also found silver and alabaster vases.

More than a treasure hunter, Morgan was also a scientist. He was aware of the need to publish an illustrated inventory of his finds, and the context in which they were found. This provided the starting point for his book, Fouilles à Dahchour, on which he worked with such specialists as the Egyptologist Gustave Jéquier for the epigraphy, Daniel Fouquet for the study of human remains, and Marcellin Berthelot, who analysed the chemical composition of the jewels.

Press interest and recognition

The spectacular discovery of the Dahshur treasure by Morgan was widely reported in the European press, with articles in theIllustration in France, and the Graphic andIllustrated London News in Britain. His success bolstered the image of French scientific research and the work of French scientists in Egypt. Jacques de Morgan was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 1896.