Beneath the Sands of Time - Dutch excavations in Egypt

29 November 2007 until 11 May 2008

Sands of TimeSands of Time

A unique exhibition on the history of the excavations in Saqqara by the National Museum of Antiquities, set against the background of four centuries of Dutch archaeological research in Egypt. Personal notes, diary entries, photos and of course objects give a fascinating impression of the work of the curators who ventured into the Egyptian desert on behalf of the museum.

Dutch in the desert

‘Beneath the Sands of Time’ presents a picture of the motivations, methods and discoveries of the Dutch who trekked into the desert in search of cultural treasures from ancient Egypt. Attention is also devoted to the museum’s own excavations, which started 50 years ago and the research in Saqqara (near Cairo), where museum curators still make special discoveries every year.

Four centuries of Dutch research

The exhibition leads visitors via a time line along four centuries of Dutch research. From the adventurers, collectors and merchants who trekked to Egypt from the 17th century on, the first Dutch who worked at sites as draughtsmen or photographers in the 19th century, to the latest discoveries by the museum’s Egyptologists. Drawn from personal notes, diary entries, drawings, paintings, photos, sound and film clips. Among the over 300 objects on display, largely excavated by Dutch archaeologists, are tomb sculptures, the mummy of a falcon, reliefs, necklaces and pottery bowls and pitchers.

Remarkable monuments

Special attention is devoted to the museum’s excavations and the museum’s current research in Saqqara. The excavations are conducted annually in cooperation with the University of Leiden. The team of curator Maarten Raven and the expeditions of his predecessors Adolf Klasens and Hans Schneider have on multiple occasions brought remarkable monuments to light. They discovered the tombs of the minister of finance Maya (of whom the museum also has three lovely monumental sculptures), of high priest Meryneith and of the royal cupbearer Ptahemwia, all dating to the days of the pharaohs Akhenaton and Tutankhamen (1353-1323 B.C.).

A tent and a house

In the exhibition, a tent presents their workspace, with materials like picks, shovels, drawing materials, maps and film clips of the archaeologists in action. In a mock-up, the lovely wall paintings from the Nubian church of Abdallah Nirki that the museum itself excavated can be admired with a mini-camera. Next to it is a reconstruction of a house from the Nubian village of Shokan, where a story about life in the village is told.


Visitors can discover ancient Egypt for themselves and imagine themselves as Egyptologists with the computer games ‘Eternal Egypt’ and ‘Expedition Egypt’ at the IBM game tables in the museum’s central hall.