Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt

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Christiane Desroches Noblecourt (born November 17, 1913 in Paris , † June 23, 2011 in Sézanne , Marne ) was a French Egyptologist . She is the author of numerous books on Egyptian art and history and is also known for her role in preserving Nubian temples from flooding by the Aswan Dam .


Noblecourt was born Christiane Desroches in Paris in 1913. In 1922 she was fascinated by Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun . She was encouraged by Father Etienne Drioton and worked in the Egyptian Antiquities Department in the Louvre . She was the first woman to be a member of the Institut français d'archéologie orientale (IFAO) and in 1938 she was the first woman to lead an archaeological dig. During the Second World War she joined the resistance and hid the Egyptian treasures of the Louvre in free France.

This model shows the temples of Abu Simbel before (below) and after (above) their relocation. The horizontal line in the middle of the picture marks the current water level of Lake Nasser .

The construction of the new dam resulted in Noblecourt's greatest achievement: preserving the ancient Nubian temples from the flood. Construction of the first dam was completed in 1902, but it was deemed insufficient in 1912 and 1934 with a capacity of one billion cubic meters. The size of the dam was no longer able to meet the needs of the steadily growing Egyptian population. In 1954, for example, Gamal Abdel Nasser's government decided to build a new dam with a capacity of 157 billion cubic meters, 500 km in length and extending into Sudan . The monuments of ancient Nubia would have been flooded and lost forever if the project had gone as planned.

UNESCO immediately asked Noblecourt, then curator of Egyptian antiquities in the Louvre, for an inventory of all threatened historical sites. Then she undertook the daunting task of finding donors to fund the rescue operation. On March 8, 1960, Noblecourt and Sarwat Okasha , the Egyptian Minister of Culture, called for international support. Not only did more than fourteen temples have to be moved, but urgent excavations at the sites that would soon be in the water had to be funded. At the height of the Cold War , fifty countries contributed funds to preserve the monuments as the heritage of all humanity. Ultimately, the rescue operation, including transportation and rebuilding of the temples, took twenty years.

The preservation of the Nubian monuments had unexpected consequences. The first was the improvement of Franco-Egyptian relations after the Suez Crisis of 1956. This in turn led to a Tutankhamun exhibition at the Louvre in 1967, which attracted a record number of visitors, followed by the exhibitions on Ramses II in 1976 and Amenhotep III . 1993. In recognition of the French contribution to the preservation of the Nubian temples, the government of Anwar as-Sadat donated a bust of Amenhotep IV ( Akhenaten ) to the Louvre . In 1975 Noblecourt received the prestigious gold medal from the Center national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). In January 2008 she was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.



Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Stéphane Foucart: Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt. In: Le Monde , 26. – 27. June 2011, p. 24.
  2. Decree of January 30, 2008