In a new book, a historian explores the social networks of archaeologists and Egyptologists


Newswise – When most of us think of social media, we think of connecting digitally with others through sites like Facebook, TikTok, or Twitter. A new book by Dr Kathleen Sheppard, associate professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, is about a different kind of social network – a physical network of archaeologists, Egyptologists, tourists and other travelers drawn to Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In Tea on the terrace: hotels and social networks of Egyptologists, 1885-1925, Sheppard examines how “small, ephemeral communities” emerged among travelers to Egypt at the height of exploration of its pyramids and ruins. For archaeologists, Egyptologists, tourists, and other travelers of this era, European-style hotels in Alexandria, Cairo, and Luxor served as gathering places after long days at excavation sites. These travelers would mix and mingle informally in hotel dining rooms and ballrooms to exchange knowledge, debate ideas, and even find work on an archaeological dig. Sheppard says these social interactions were an overlooked but integral part of the process of spreading the knowledge discovered by archaeologists and their crews.

“Egyptian hotels represent an important place for the creation of archaeological knowledge and the networks necessary for this knowledge”, writes Sheppard in the introduction of Tea on the terrace. The book, published by Manchester University Press, will be released on Tuesday August 2.

“The work done by Egyptologists in the social spaces of hotels says more about how scientific inquiry is conducted in the field: there was never any mention of the trowel, artifacts, or subsequent reports,” writes Sheppard, who also holds the Lawrence O Christensen Endowed Faculty Fellowship at Missouri S&T. “Egyptology is social; participation is decided in the spaces where power is exercised.

The title of the book refers to a ritual common to these inhabitants of the hotel. “Egyptologists and archaeologists met on the terrace for tea, in the ballrooms during dances, in the dining halls for meals, and in their private bedrooms, all to discuss scientific matters,” Sheppard writes. . “In doing so, they turned hotels into scientific institutions.”

In Tea on the terraceSheppard takes readers on a journey down the Nile from the city of Alexandria on Egypt’s northern coast – the starting point for most travelers – to Cairo and Luxor, where the famous archaeological sites are located.

In Cairo, archaeologists and tourists of that time ventured to the pyramid complex of Giza or the ancient cities of Memphis and Heliopolis. In Luxor – once the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes – visitors crossed the Nile to explore the temples and tombs of the Theban Necropolis, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. The Valley of the Kings is where Egyptologist Howard Carter found King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

Sheppard draws on a wide range of archival material, including the diaries and diaries of archaeologists, Egyptologists and other travelers, to illustrate how their encounters at the hotel influenced their research, led to lasting friendships and, for some, provided work opportunities. For example, an aspiring Egyptologist, E. Harold Jones, who traveled from England in the hope that the dry climate would cure his tuberculosis, “took advantage of the vast network of Egyptologists staying in hotels all over Luxor and Cairo in order to find a new job,” writes Sheppard.

Sheppard’s book includes many vignettes of famous and less famous figures on the Egyptian scene during this 40-year period. “I’m a biographer at heart,” she says, “so I wanted to tell their stories.”

Many of the characters are familiar to those familiar with Egyptology. They include Carter, who found King Tutankhamun’s tomb, and James Henry Breasted, who was “a wet doctor behind his ears”. — and the first American to earn a doctorate. in Egyptology – when he first traveled to Egypt in the late 1800s, but was a leading Egyptologist by the time he returned in the 1920s to support Carter.

Sheppard also discusses the most often overlooked role of women in discipline. For example, Emma Andrews, partner and companion of archaeologist and self-taught patron Theodore Davis, was just as wealthy as the millionaire Davis and financed excavations on her own.

“If a man did that, it wouldn’t have been surprising,” Sheppard says. “But for a woman to pay the cost of excavating a site was unexpected. The roles of women in the field at the time were often the same as those of men. We just haven’t heard of them.

The 40-year period from 1885 to 1925 represents the height of exploration of Egyptian ruins, as well as an increase in interest from archaeological tourists, Sheppard says. The era coincides with the British conquest of Egypt in 1882 and its subsequent occupation of the territory as a British protectorate until 1922, although British presence in Egypt continued into the 1950s.

The timing of Sheppard’s book coincides with many important anniversaries related to Egyptian history: Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb 100 years ago, the 140th anniversary of the founding of the Egyptian Exploration Society , the 140th anniversary of the British bombardment of Alexandria and the 200th anniversary of the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Sheppard began teaching at Missouri S&T in the fall of 2011 after two years teaching at the American University in Cairo, where she first became interested in the relationship between hotels and archaeologists. But his interest in Egyptology began much earlier.

“When I was 9, my dad showed me a copy of a 1979 National Geographic that had King Tutankhamun’s mask on the cover,” she says. “I was more interested in Howard Carter and what he was doing” than the boy king. “But looking at this magazine, I also thought, ‘Where are the girls?'”

Sheppard’s previous books include The Life of Margaret Alice Murray: A Woman’s Work in Archeologypublished in 2013, and My Dear Miss Ransom: Letters between Caroline Ransom Williams and James Henry Breastedpublished in 2018.

Sheppard earned his Ph.D. and a Master of Arts in History of Science from the University of Oklahoma. She also holds an MA in Egyptian Archeology from University College London and a BA in Anthropology and Sociology from Truman State University.

In addition to Egyptology, Sheppard also conducts research on women in the history of science. This fall, she will teach the history of medieval and modern science at Missouri S&T.

About Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university with more than 7,200 students. Part of the University of Missouri’s four-campus system and located in Rolla, Missouri, Missouri S&T offers 101 degree programs in 40 fields of study and is among the top 10 universities in the nation for return on investment, according to Business Insider. S&T is also home to the Kummer Institute, made possible by a $300 million gift from Fred and June Kummer. For more information on Missouri S&T, visit


Comments are closed.