Czech Egyptology - Part I

In the last four weeks, we discussed the history and achievements of Czech archaeology. Perhaps the best-known branch of Czech archaeology on an international scale is Czech Egyptology. This week we talk to Egyptologist Jaromir Krejci from Prague's Charles University who first takes us back to the 19th century when Jan Kminek-Szedlo, as the first Czech ever, started his Egyptology studies in Italy.

"The Czech Egyptology has got an interesting history. It is not a well-known fact that the first Czech Egyptologist was the first director of the Egyptian collection in Bologna, Italy in the second half of the 19th century. However, the first real Czech Egyptologist was Professor Frantisek Lexa who was appointed Professor of Egyptology at our university in the 1920s."

The lectures of Professor Lexa achieved wide acclaim and in the period between the two world wars, Professor Lexa became an internationally recognised expert in the fields of ancient Egyptian religion and language. One of Frantisek Lexa's students, Professor Zbynek Zaba later participated in the founding of the Czech Institute of Egyptology.

"The founding of our institute at the end of the 1950s was connected with the rescue action of UNESCO, connected with the building of the Aswan Dam in Nubia. Our mission in those days took part in this rescue programme and it participated in this project for several years. The first archaeological excavations in Egypt were made in Nubia. From the year 1960, our mission has also worked in Abusir."

The site in Abusir on which Czech Egyptologists are licensed to carry out excavations is probably the largest area any foreign expedition is allowed to use in Egypt.

"We have got an archaeological concession in the area of Pyramid Necropolis in Abusir which is located about 20 kilometres to the southwest of Cairo. It is a very important archaeological site and in connection with this concession it should be said that we have to make an application every year for season. So it is not automatic that we are allowed to work there but we have to file applications with the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt."