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Unique and Flexible: The Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF) Enters its 2nd Decade of Funding Scholars

Unique and Flexible: The Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF) Enters its 2nd Decade of Funding Scholars

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Unique and Flexible: The Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF) Enters its 2nd Decade of Funding Scholars

Created in 2004 with resources from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as allocated by the U.S. Congress, ARCE's Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF) sustains a unique ongoing grants program that supports the conservation, preservation and documentation of Egypt's cultural heritage. Since its inception, the AEF has funded a total of 96 projects valued at over 3.5 million US dollars.

This competitive award is granted annually to a select number of highly focused conservation, training and publication projects that can be completed within one year. The project must make a significant contribution to the conservation, preservation or documentation of Egyptian heritage from Prehistory through the Pharaonic Period to the Coptic, Islamic and end of the Ottoman Period. Although the majority of awardees have been American university and museum expeditions, the AEF award is not restricted, ensuring that available funds are directed to the highest caliber projects proposed by the international academic community, regardless of nationality. The flexibility of this award is one of its outstanding qualities.

Applications are considered in four different categories: Conservation, Preservation and Presentation; Training of Egyptian Personnel; Student Training, and Publication Subsidies. Grantees’ reports are published in the biannual ARCE Bulletin with additional information available on the ARCE website. Both the AEF archive and current grants are available to peruse online.

The Conservation, Preservation and Presentation Category was designed to support the conservation and preservation of Egyptian sites, structures or objects dating from prehistory up to 100 years ago. These projects are intended to protect sites, parts of sites or to conserve specific elements at a site; to preserve, conserve and present artifacts, works of art, monuments, ancient manuscripts or books; and to photograph or otherwise document or catalogue sites, structures, or objects.

The reconstruction of the north tympanum from Senwosret III's north chapel at the end of the 2010 season. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Adela Oppenheim.

The 2010 reconstruction of the North Tympanum of Senwosret III’s North Chapel at Dahshur proposed by Drs. Dieter Arnold and Adela Oppenheim from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was funded in this category. The objective of this project was to reconstruct the north tympanum, for the first time in millennia, using fragments set into a modern limestone block. This reconstruction provided a full 1:1 understanding of the scene depicting the enthroned king surrounded by deities, fecundity figures and inscriptions. The project report is in ARCE Bulletin #199 pages 21-26.

Conservation team with completed shelving for stabilized wooden ship and other organic material remains. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Cheryl Ward.

Funds were also made available in this category to Dr. Cheryl Ward, Director of the Center for Archaeology and Anthropology at Coastal Carolina University. This project completed the preservation, documentation, and stable storage of wooden ships and other ship equipment remains made of organic materials, predominately from the Middle Kingdom. These artifacts include the largest quantity of ancient rope discovered to date as well as the world’s oldest seagoing ship planks. Conditions at the site had fostered fungal activity in storage areas and the artifacts were in immediate and urgent need of stabilization, documentation and storage. The project report is available in ARCE Bulletin #199 pages 26-32.

Funding the database will increase access to digital images produced by the Epigraphic Survey since 1924. Photo: Courtesy Dr. Ray Johnson.

In 2009, AEF funding was granted to Dr. Ray Johnson, on behalf of Chicago House in Luxor, to assist with the cataloguing, editing, registration and storage of digital images produced by the Epigraphic Survey staff. This comprehensive database will increase scholarly access through newly digitized images from the photographic archive of the Epigraphic Survey that date back to 1924. Since beginning work in Egypt in 1924, the Survey has produced a vast quantity of data. An upcoming ARCE Bulletin will feature this project.

In 2011, the AEF awarded funds to Dr. Josef Wegner from the University of Pennsylvania. This award helped in the preservation of the tomb of King Senwosret III at Abydos by providing the funds to construct a protective cover over the structure and the installation of a wood and metal staircase, traversing the original passageway into the tomb. The structure was built with the intention of preserving the concept of the ‘hidden’ royal tomb and does not interfere with the local environment. This project report is available in ARCE Bulletin #203 pages 10-24.

Building Egyptian capacity through training is a key component for the future of the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) and a practice to which ARCE is committed. ARCE recognizes that the conservation and preservation of Egypt's cultural heritage relies upon properly trained personnel and therefore ensures that its training initiatives continue through the AEF. Over the past 11 years, MSA Secretaries General and Ministers have acknowledged the importance of ARCE’s training programs for Egyptian antiquities inspectors and conservators. Funding in this category can be used for field schools, museum and site management, and on-the-job conservation training.

The first AEF grant for training Egyptian inspectors began in 2004. Training remains at the core of the grant program. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Nairy Hampikian.

Among the training projects supported by the AEF was the two-part Training Course for SCA Inspectors of the Islamic and Coptic Sector.  Proposed by Drs. Nairy Hampikian and May al-Ibrashy in 2004 and 2006, the eight-week programs introduced 40 antiquities inspectors working in medieval Cairo to the mechanisms of planning conservation projects, overseeing implementation, reporting and maintaining the conserved monuments. Through comprehensive training programs such as this, ARCE has helped to build a cadre of SCA inspectors possessing the skills required for on-going preservation of Egyptian monuments. ARCE Bulletin #189 pages 10-12, reports on this project.

Field training for advanced archaeology students expands cultural sensitivity and knowledge about ancient and present day Egypt. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Dawn McCormack.

The AEF also seeks to increase the number of American students who are knowledgeable about Egypt and sensitive to its cultural heritage and therefore provides opportunities for advanced archaeology students to train in Egypt. In 2010, the AEF provided funding to give four students from the Middle Tennessee State University an opportunity to partake in two months of an archaeological field season at the South Abydos Mastabas Project. Under the direction of Dr. Dawn McCormack they participated in a six-week seminar prior to leaving for Egypt, where they focused on the re-investigation of two Thirteenth Dynasty royal funerary monuments.

Entry of the French army into Quseir in 1799. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Charles Le Quesne.

As part of the final category, the AEF supports the publication of completed manuscripts and the preparation of specialist materials for publication manuscripts such as drawings and illustrations.

In its first year, the AEF funded the publication of Quseir: An Ottoman and Napoleonic Fortress on the Red Sea Coast of Egypt by Charles Le Quesne. The book, published by AUC Press, was the result of a comprehensive excavation, restoration and study carried out as part of ARCE’s Antiquities Development Project funded by USAID. This monograph is significant for the study of the Red Sea during the Ottoman period and greatly contributes to our understanding of the relationship between the Arab world and the West, and the Hajj and the Red Sea during this period. The project report is available in the ARCE Bulletin #189 pages 7-9.

AEF funding often supports specialized reports not supported by other funding sources. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Pearce Paul Creasman.

During the most recent round of AEF awards, a publication subsidy was granted to honor Richard H. Wilkinson through a festschrift edited by Dr. Pearce Paul Creasman.  Archaeological Research in the Valley of the Kings and Ancient Thebes: Papers Presented in Honor of Richard H. Wilkinson provided colleagues an opportunity to honor Wilkinson with their own original research. More about this project can be found in ARCE Bulletin #203 pages 36-37.

In light of the evolving situation in Egypt since January 2011, the AEF Committee voted to introduce a new Emergency Grant to assist any critical conservation and/or training need that arises outside of the fixed timeline for proposal submission. This grant will be awarded to a project that is deemed too critical to wait and illustrates the unique and flexible nature of the grant itself.

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