Sanda of time, 1910: Difficult living conditions in ancient Egypt – In photos

The city of Meroë lay undiscovered for two millennia before British archaeologist John Garstang excavated it in the early 20th century – and created some of the first ever photographs of ancient Egypt’s treasures

At the dawn of the 20th century, British archeologist John Garstang took the radical decision to document his discoveries with photography – and immortalised an ancient world. • Meroë: Africa’s Forgotten Empire is being shown until 14 September at Garstang Museum of Archaeology, Liverpool • All photographs: Garstang Museum of Archaeology


High altar with relief featuring Hapi the Nile god, found in the central sanctuary of the Temple of Amun, 1912

Garstang was born in Blackburn in 1876, and got a scholarship to study maths at Oxford University. During holidays he indulged a newfound interest in archaeology, excavating Roman sites in Britain


Following later excavations in Egyptian sites like Reqaqnah, Beit Khallaf and Abydos, Garstang came to Meroë, an ancient city on the banks of the Nile situated in what is now Sudan


Meroë had lain undisturbed for 2,000 years before Garstang began his excavations


Committees of wealthy individuals would fund the excavations, in exchange for being able to keep objects found by Garstang and his team


Remarkable discoveries were made, like the decapitated head of a bronze statue of Roman emperor Augustus, sacked from a raid on Roman garrisons further north in Egypt


The head was buried underneath a doorway to a building thought to be a victory monument or temple – in walking over the head, Meroites would effectively reiterate their victory. The piece is now owned by the British Museum


Garstang also discovered brightly coloured frescoes, though these were destroyed a few years later after the building he stored them in was damaged in a storm


Garstang’s photography also documented the contemporary world, like this Sudanese clothing


Lion imagery was prevalent, including in a temple adorned with the lion headed god Apedemak


The Garstang Museum in Liverpool has recently 3D-printed copies of various artefacts found at Meroë


Following his Egyptian work, Garstang went on to make major excavations in Israel, heading Jerusalem’s British School of Archaeology, and Turkey, the latter completed after the second world war halted his progress. He then founded the British Institute of Archeology in Ankara


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