Flinders Petrie correspondence: Emile Carthailhac, 1895

Petrie correspondence: Emile Cartailhac, 1895

Émile Cartailhac (15 February 1845, Marseille – 26 November 1921, Geneva) was a French prehistorian, one of the founding fathers of the studies of the cave art. He is perhaps best remembered because of his involvement with the Altamira paintings.

In the late 1800s, he corresponded with William Flinders Petrie about an – alleged – new race in Egypt.


University College,
Gower St,
London. W.C.
7 April /95
My dear Sir,
Thanks for your very cordial appreciation of the work at Koptos, which I see in L‘Anthropologie.
And now let me tell you of an entirely new race in Egypt. I have found the foreigners who overthrew the Old Kingdom after the VIth dynasty. We have excavated a small town, & cemeteries containing nearly 2000 tombs. Not a single Egyptian object was found in the whole place!! The pottery, the metal, the beads, the ivory, are all non – Egyptian; & not a single scarab or hieroglyph or figure of a god was found. It shows the most complete

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destruction of a civilisation that is known. Although these foreigners were devoted to fine pottery, & made great quantities, yet not one piece was made on the wheel, – it is entirely hand made with superb skill. This shews [sic] that not any workmen of the old Egyptian race were left in that region.
The extent of these invaders is at least from Abydos to Gebelen; I was working near Neqada, but their characteristic things are found at the other places.
The date is absolutely fixed by the burials being in the descent to a IVth dynasty tomb, [drawing] & with a XII dyn burial over them. Also burials of the XIIth dynasty are cut through a town of the invaders.

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This discovery has linked together nearly all the strange classes of objects that used to distract us in Egypt.
1) The magnificent flint knives with long flaking, [drawing] & no handle like the Egyptian handles [drawing] Also the forked lances [drawing] with minute saw edges [drawing]. All the flint work is far finer than Egyptian.
2) The slate slab [drawing] which we now find were used to grind malachite for painting the eyes.
3) The cylindrical beads [drawing] of hard stone.
4) The buff pottery with red lines & figures. [drawing]
5) The red pottery with white lines & figures [drawing]
6) The red polished pottery with black tops, produced by baking in ashes.

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7) The wavy handle jars which degrade to cylinders [drawing]
I expect about 200 cases of pottery etc, over in June, I hope to exhibit in July. Can you come then? Or come to the British Association where it would give me the greatest pleasure to have your support in the Anthropological section over which I have to preside this year. I hope you can come.
I also found the house of palaeolithic man, with perfectly unworn grand palaeoliths [drawing] 20cm long, on the top of the plateau 400 metres over the Nile. And later palaeolithic flints in the Nile gravels. So there is I hope enough to draw you to England this year.
Yours sincerely

W.M. Fliners Petrie


Source: Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Thanks to Lee Young for transcribing the letter.

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