The Grand Monuments of the Ancients in the Nile Valley


Kitāb al-athar al-jalīl li-qudamāʼ Wādī al-Nīl (The grand monuments of the ancients in the Nile Valley) is a history of ancient Egyptian civilization by Ahmad Najib, an official of the Egyptian antiquities service under the direction of Jacques de Morgan (1857−1924). Najib published the work as a textbook on orders from education minister Ya’qub Artin (1842−1919) and claimed that it was the first effort by an Egyptian to instruct his countrymen on the historical wonders of their country. The book begins with general remarks on the Nile and a sketch of the beliefs of its early inhabitants. The remainder of the work is organized around the author’s rihalat ‘ilmiyah (scientific expeditions) to ancient sites made in the 1880s and early 1890s. In some respects, the work resembles the travel guides of Karl Baedeker (1801−59), for example in the notation of distances between sites and the descriptions of the current condition of ancient traces. Accompanying the text are photographic plates, lists of kings, and hieroglyphic tables. Although the book is not footnoted or supplied with a bibliography, the author frequently quotes his sources and predecessors, ancient and contemporary, and often cites the French archeologist Gaston Maspero (1846−1916). The book’s descriptions are often personal and its style varies between the strictly narrative and flights of rhymed prose. There is a table of contents and an index of proper names. Presented here is the first edition issued by al-Matbaʻah al-Kubra al-Amiriyah in Cairo in 1893 or 1894, which must have been rushed into print very soon after Najib’s survey of antiquities in Daqhaliyah Province in Lower Egypt in 1893. A second edition or printing issued by the same press appeared in 1895.

Last updated: February 18, 2015