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Visalizing a Monumental Past: Archaeology, Nasser's Egypt, and the Early Cold War

William Carruthers


This article examines geographies of decolonization and the Cold War through a case study in the making of archeological knowledge. The article focuses on an archeological dig that took place in Egypt in the period between the July 1952 Free Officers’ coup and the 1956 Suez crisis. Making use of the notion of the ‘boundary object’, this article demonstrates how the excavation of ancient Egyptian remains at the site of Mit Rahina helped to constitute Nasserist revolutionary modernity and its relationship to wider, post-Second World War political geographies. The dig took place as a result of an Egyptian–American collaboration designed to institute the possibility of archeology taking place along the lines of the Point Four modernization program promoted by the United States. The article discusses how this situation not only engendered contention surrounding the role of the international ‘experts’ appointed to run this excavation work, but also – and as a result – helped to constitute the monumental visual and material shape that archeological evidence relating to the Egyptian past could now take. Egypt’s revolution sat within wider Cold War political struggles, yet the ‘ground-up’ realities of this relationship helped to constitute the sort of past (and future) monumentality proposed by Nasser’s government.

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History of Science, doi: 10.1177/0073275316681800

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William Carruthers William Carruthers
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