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GASTON CAMILLE CHARLES MASPERO (1846– )

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 848 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GASTON CAMILLE CHARLES MASPERO (1846– ), French Egyptologist, was born in Paris on the 23rd of June 1846, his parents being of Lombard origin. While at school he showed a special taste for history, and when fourteen years old was already interested in hieroglyphic writing. It was not until his second year at the Ecole Normale in 1867 that Maspero met with an Egyptologist in the person of Mariette, who was then in Paris as commissioner for the Egyptian section of the exhibition. Mariette gave him two newly discovered hieroglyphic texts of considerable difficulty to study, and, self-taught, the young scholar produced translations of them in less than a fortnight, a great feat in those days when Egyptology was still almost in its infancy. The publication of these in the same year established his reputation. A short time was spent in assisting a gentleman in Peru, who wasseeking to prove an Aryan affinity for the dialects spoken by the Indians of that country, to publish his researches; but in 1868 Maspero was back in France at more profitable work. In 1869 he became a teacher (repetiteur) of Egyptian language and archaeology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes; in 1874 he was appointed to the chair of Champollion at the College de France. In November 188o Professor Maspero went to Egypt as. head of an archaeological mission despatched thither by the French government, which ultimately developed into the well-equipped Institut Frangais de 1'Archeologie Oriental. This was but a few months before the death of Mariette, whom Maspero then succeeded as director-general of excavations and of the antiquities of Egypt. He held this post till June 1886; in these five years he had organized the mission, and his labours for the Bulak museum and for archaeology had been early rewarded by the discovery of the great cache of royal mummies at Deir el-Bahri in July 1881. Maspero now resumed his professorial duties in Paris until 1899, when he returned to Egypt in his old capacity as director-general of the department of antiquities. He found the collections in the Cairo Museum enormously increased, and he superintended their removal from Gizeh to the new quarters at Kasr en-Nil in 1902. The vast catalogue of the collections made rapid progress under Maspero's direction. Twenty-four volumes or sections were already published in 1909. The repairs and clearances at the temple of Karnak, begun in his previous tenure of office, led to the most remarkable discoveries in later years (see KARNAK), during which a vast amount of excavation and exploration has been carried on also by unofficial but authorized explorers of many nationalities. Among his best-known publications are the large Histoire ancienne des peuples de l'Orient classique (3 vols., Paris, 1895–1897, translated into English by Mrs McClure for the S.P.C.K.), displaying the history of the whole of the nearer East from the beginnings to the conquest by Alexander; a smaller Histoire des peuples de l'Orient, 1 vol., of the same scope, which has passed through six editions from 1875 to 1904; Etudes de mythologie et d'archeologie egyptiennes (Paris, 1893, &c.), a collection of reviews and essays originally published in various journals, and especially important as contributions to the study of Egyptian religion; L'Archeologie egyptienne (latest ed., 1907), of which several editions have been published in English. He also established the journal Recueil de travaux relatifs a la philologie et a l'archeologie egyptiennes et assyriennes; the Bibliothkque egyptologique, in which the scattered essays of the French Egyptologists are collected, with biographies, &c.; and the Annales du service des antiquites de l'Egypte, a repository for reports on official excavations, &c. Maspero also wrote: Les Inscriptions des pyramides de Saqqarah (Paris, 1894) ; Les Momies royales de Deir el-Bahari (Paris, 1889) ; Les Conies populaires de l'Egypte ancienne (3rd ed., Paris, 1906) ; Causeries d'Egypte (1907), translated by Elizabeth Lee as New Light on Ancient Egypt (1908).
End of Article: GASTON CAMILLE CHARLES MASPERO (1846– )
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