Debbie is Education and Outreach Officer at the London School of Economics Library. She and I discussed many things including racism in the history of archaeology, emotions in the history of archaeology, making connections to wider histories and contexts, and the importance of good metadata in archives. Listed to our conversation here.
You can find Debbie's two posts on Hilda Petrie and suffrage, written for this website here.
Debbie's work published open access:
Challis, D., 2016. Skull Triangles: Flinders Petrie, Race Theory and Biometrics. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, 26(1), p.Art. 5. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/bha-556 Open Access
Challis, Debbie and Romain, Gemma (2015), A Fusion of Worlds. A / AS Level Learning Resource on the Equiano Centre Website, (Department of Geography UCL): https://www.ucl.ac.uk/equiano-centre/educational-resources/fusion-worlds/context/ancient-egypt-culture-and-barbarism [accessed 13 July 2020].
2021: ‘Back to Back: Babies, Bodies, Boxes’ in Carruthers, W. 2021. Special Issue: Inequality and Race in the Histories of Archaeology. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, X(X): X, pp. 1–19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bha-660
With Daniel Payne, ‘Giving Peace a Chance: Archives engagement at LSE Library’, Andrew H. W. Smith (ed.), Paper Trails. The social life of archives and collections, UCL Press: https://ucldigitalpress.co.uk/BOOC/3
2019, ‘Seeing Race in Biblical Egypt: Edwin Longsden Long’s Anno Domini (1883) and A. H. Sayce’s The Races of the Old Testament (1891)’, Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 28(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.2041-9015.1128
Debbie has put work she is now allowed to share and the introduction to her two books up here: https://lse.academia.edu/DebbieChallis
Debbie's recent talk has been recorded and is available: https://events.bizzabo.com/aep/agenda/session/651358 (Registration needed)
Other work referenced in the interview:
Davies, Vanessa, 2019-20. W. E. B Du Bois, a new voice in Egyptology’s disciplinary history, ANKH. Can download from Academia: https://www.academia.edu/42746258/W._E._B._Du_Bois_a_new_voice_in_Egyptologys_disciplinary_history
Gunning, Lucia Patrizio, 2021. Cultural Diplomacy in the acquisition of the head of the Satala Aphrodite for the British Museum. Journal of the History of Collections, fhab025, https://doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhab025.
Books with the most influence on Debbie when doing her PhD include Dominic Montserrat (2000) Akhenaten and Digging for Dreams, Ian Hodder and Scot Hudson (2003) Reading the Past. Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology and Sven Lindqvist (1997) ‘Exterminate All the Brutes’.
A book that influenced Debbie's writing The Archaeology of Race is Fiona Candlin and Raiford Guins (ed.) The Object Reader (2009).
The most recent and compelling books that I’ve read using archives, history, politics and objects are Phillippe Sande The Ratline (2020), Dan Hicks The Brutish Museum (2020) and Richard Overy Burning the books. Knowledge Under Attack (2020)
Heba Abd El Gawad is an Egyptian Egyptologist and project researcher on the Egypt's Dispersed Heritage project (more information on the project below). She was co-curator of the Beyond Beauty exhibition at Two Temple Place in 2016 and the Listen to Her! exhibition at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian and Sudanese Archaeology in 2018. We discussed the emotional impact of history of archaeology research, the role of social justice in the history of archaeology, and the ongoing legacies of colonialism.
You can listen to our discussion here.
The inspirational text Heba mentions in the discussion is by Egyptian geographer Gamal Habdan (1928-1993), a graduate of both Cairo University and the University of Reading. The work Heba refers to is entitled مجموعة شخصية مصر دراسة فى عبقرية المكان 4 أجزاء (The Character of Egypt).
The quote from Amelia Edwards' 1877 book A Thousand Miles Up the Nile that Heba references in our discussion is:
"I may say, indeed, that our life here was one long pursuit of the pleasures of the chase. The game, it is true, was prohibited; but we enjoyed it none the less because it was illegal. Perhaps we enjoyed it the more" (p.449-450)
Heba has provided links to a number of additional project outputs:
a) Who owns Egyptian heritage? podcast with Manchester Museum
b) Our public panel on the legacies of Western colonialism on ancient Egypt and the link between ancient and modern Egypt chaired by BBC's Samira Ahmed at the National Museum in Scotland listen to this podcast
c) You can listen to Heba discussing the Egypt's Dispersed Heritage project and her experience in curation in the latest episode of The Wonder House podcast, published Jan 2021.
d) Heba has also been interviewed for the Manchester Museum podcast, published Feb 2021.
Social Media Accounts
The Egypt Dispersed Heritage project on Twitter and Facebook
Project partnership with Egyptian comic artists producing Egyptian comic strips and graphic novels to confront colonial legacies of ancient Egyptian displays in Western museums, you can check out our interview with Digital Hammurabi and our comic artists' discussion panel for Everyday Orientalism.
Human Remains webinar
Your mummies, their ancestors webinar on the ethics of displaying and researching human remains in partnership with Egypt Exploration Society and Everyday Orientalism.
a) For the Egypt Dispersed Heritage partnership with the Egypt Exploration Society to unpack its colonial legacy check this blog entry
b) Project partnership with National Museum in Scotland check this English webpage and Arabic here.
Our project as Arab leading for Digital Comics during COVID 19
a) Project in Egyptian Online News Network
b) Project Comics in Egyptian Online News Network
c) Project on Egyptian National TV
Dr Gabriel Moshenska is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Interview with Dr Amara Thornton, IoA History of Archaeology Network Coordinator.
AT: How would you define history of archaeology?
GM: I think there’s different ways of approaching this question. There’s no single history of archaeology, just as there is no one best approach to its study. I’m particularly fascinated by biographical approaches – individual, group, and object-focused biographies. History of archaeology can rise up from the grassroots – sites, artefacts, archives, balance sheets, individuals, institutions – or it can descend from the clouds of theory, and trace concepts and models onto the crooked timber of archaeological humanity. I like the diversity of it, even if I’m rather unimpressed with quite a lot of the work that takes place within that diversity.
AT: What is your area of research in the history of archaeology?
GM: Primarily, I’m engaged in a biographical study of Thomas Pettigrew, the surgeon-antiquarian who became well known for holding public unrollings of Egyptian mummies. I’m assembling his intellectual biography in fragments, and currently looking at his work as librarian to the Duke of Sussex, and the liberal political milieus that this brought him into contact with.
I have other strands of interest as well – perhaps too many – including the history of archaeology in London, from Charles Roach Smith through to the present. Through my Pettigrew work I’ve become very interested in the early history of the British Archaeological Association, and the rise of archaeology as a bourgeois pastime in the mid-nineteenth century. Most recently I did some work looking at the history of protest movements at archaeological excavations, and the nature of public ‘save the heritage’ campaigns, that often come to regard archaeologists as their enemies.
AT: How did you become interested in the history of archaeology?
GM: During my PhD I became very interested in the epistemological significance of eye-witnessing in archaeology, and the role of expert and amateur audiences at excavations. This led me into historical studies of public archaeology, including Pettigrew’s mummy unrollings. Then I started working on archived correspondence of archaeologists and antiquarians, and there was no going back.
AT: Are you working on anything in particular related to the history of archaeology right now?
A long-overdue book! I’m also wrangling with the late Peter Gathercole’s research notes on Gordon Childe, which contain a wealth of fascinating material. Related to this, lately I’ve been enjoying Katie Meheux’s penetrating and illuminating work on Childe.
AT: What, from your experience, is the most exciting thing you've come across in history of archaeology research and why?
Correspondence between two antiquarians – Robert Lemon and Thomas Pettigrew – from 1826. Lemon reported to Pettigrew that he’d discovered a long-lost theological work by John Milton in the State Paper Office. Knowing sod-all about Milton, and having no wifi in the British Library manuscript room at that point, my first thought was blimey, what a discovery! Does anybody know about this? Fortunately the existence of De Doctrina Christiana is well known, but I was able to add a few details to the history of its rediscovery and attempts to variously authenticate and debunk it, and publish a short paper in Milton Quarterly.
AT: Do you have any favourite books (academic or popular) related to the history of archaeology?
GM: I very much enjoyed From Genesis to Prehistory, Peter Rowley-Conwy’s book on the contested reception of the three age system, it struck a lovely balance between the big ideas and the people behind them, and it was very well written.
Philippa Levine’s The Amateur and the Professional is a book I return to again and again in my work, with ever growing appreciation for its breadth of understanding of Victorian antiquarianism.
In terms of fascinating subject matter and superlative prose, The Master Plan, Heather Pringle’s study of Nazi archaeology, is unmatched. I highly recommend it to all archaeologists, particularly those naïve fantasists who cling to the idea of an ideology-free science of archaeology.
AT: Is there a key object/ image/ text from an archive that inspires you or that you keep revisiting?
GM: One of the strangest episodes in Thomas Pettigrew’s career was his mummification of the tenth Duke of Hamilton in 1852. Pettigrew carried out the embalming in the traditional Ancient Egyptian manner, and conducted a full faux-Egyptian funeral service, after which the Duke’s remains were interred in a genuine Egyptian sarcophagus. I read a letter from the Duke’s valet to Pettigrew in the Beinecke Library that said (I’m paraphrasing obviously) ‘The Duke just died, please come and bring the embalming spices’. I was and remain fascinated by the disparity between the outlandish strangeness of the event, and the banal matter-of-factness of the letter that heralded it. Thinking about this helps me keep the sense of wonder in my research, and a reminder not to feel too familiar or comfortable with the people and events that I’m studying.
AT: Any advice for those interested in starting research on the history of archaeology?
GM: There is so much still to do, so much incredible material lying untouched in archives. Don’t stick too closely to what’s been done before – blaze a new train through the sources and the ideas. And for god’s sake, read deeply in the historiography of science so you don’t make a fool of yourself.
AT: From your perspective, what are the key issues in the history of archaeology right now?
GM: The poverty of historiography. The huge amount of published research which is sub-antiquarian dross, boot-licking hagiography, or unoriginal piffles-about in stale secondary sources.
We often talk about archaeology as a tool of European imperialism, but I think there’s a great deal more to be done looking at the details and operations of this mechanism. For example, I would love to know more about the roles of British archaeologists in colonial expeditions, invasions, and punitive raids.
Follow Gabe on twitter at @GabeMoshenska or email him and ask for pdfs.