There are around 250 international archeological missions in Egypt, including 11 in Luxor alone, according to Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities. But until now, none came from China.
“This convinced us that international exchange is a pressing task that needs to be fulfilled for Chinese archeology,” said Wang Wei, Director of the Research Center for Chinese Archeology Abroad, an affiliate of the Institute of Archeology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). “We now have the ability to go out and help others with funds, technology and skills. We have entered an era of going out into the world.”
The center aims at improving the role and position of China in the global archeological field, and facilitating exchange with foreign counterparts. Already, the Institute of Archeology has started sending its best experts to take part in joint digs in a dozen countries, including India, Honduras and Kenya.
“This is a good thing for Chinese archeology, because we can observe our peers and compare ourselves, and this greatly improves our know-how. It’s a very rewarding experience,” said Gao.
Whenever they go, Chinese archeologists are most welcomed by local partners, not least for the expertise and technologies they bring with them.
In 2010, a team of 11 Chinese archeologists went to Kenya to search for the ancient shipwreck of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) maritime explorer Zheng He. The team was later praised by the Kenyan Government for having improved the country’s underwater surveying techniques.
“Chinese experts are highly skilled professionals who brought their expertise in underwater archeological excavations, as well as special skills in the identification of Chinese ceramics,” Kiriama Herman, a Kenyan archeologist who took part in the joint Sino-kenyan digs, told Chinafrica. and heritage,” Mohamed Hassan Abdel Fattah, Director of Archeological Documentation at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, told Chinafrica.
He said cooperation between the two ancient civilizations could mean a “big bang” in the field of archeology, adding that 3D remote sensing and imaging and radar technologies could be put to use to uncover hidden royal tombs.
“What delighted us is that Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has a very open attitude to the application of new techniques, and they welcome different working methods of different countries. Our techniques have proved to be effective for Chinese archeology, and we shall see if they give similar results in Egypt,” said Gao.
Although China is a latecomer to Egyptology, the archeological team members expressed confidence in their ability to up their game in this field and contribute to the exploration of Luxor.
“Our focus is, first and foremost, on learning, because we believe that we can all learn a lot from our cooperation. For example, for environmental reasons, Egyptian archeologists have a better understanding of stones, while the Chinese team has stronger expertise in soil tones,” explained Gao.
He and his colleagues have done their homework to prepare themselves for this journey, including collecting data on the site where they will work. Moreover, the Institute of Archeology invited world-renowned experts to give the team a series of 13 lectures on ancient Egyptian civilization.
Cooperation in the digging pits can open up new channels for broader relations between the two countries’ archeologists, said Fattah.
Archeology is not only about revealing mysteries of the past, but also about educating the public, he told Chinafrica, adding that more attention should be given to cooperation in the fields of museology, culture and education.
This is in line with the mission of Gao and other Chinese archeologists in Egypt, whose objective, said Wang Wei, is “not only to decipher Chinese civilization, but also to contribute their wisdom to unravelling the mysteries that remain unresolved in the study of world civilization.” (Reporting from Luxor, Egypt) Comments to email@example.com