Ali Radwan (1941-2020): Dean of Arab archaeologists

Hussein Bassir, Friday 28 Feb 2020

Ali Radwan
Ali Radwan

On 12 February, the eminent Egyptian Egyptologist and dean of Egyptian archaeologists Ali Radwan, emeritus professor of Egyptology at Cairo University, passed away. His death is a great loss to the fields of archaeology and Egyptology and to all of us in Egypt, the Arab world, and the rest of the world concerned with such subjects.

Radwan had a long career teaching Egyptology and archaeology and saving Egypt’s antiquities. He was one of my own teachers at Cairo University’s Faculty of Archaeology, where I studied particularly the prehistory of Egypt and the Ancient Near East under his guidance. I then started my MA in Egyptology on Nubia in the Neolithic period under his supervision. In addition to the eminent Egyptologists Zahi Hawass and Rainer Stadelmann, Radwan was kind enough to recommend me to study for a PhD in Egyptology and Near Eastern Archaeology at Johns Hopkins University in the US in 2002.

Later, when I was working at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation (NMEC) in Cairo, I used to meet Radwan every Tuesday because he was the head of the scientific committee in charge of the NMEC displays. He was an unfailingly helpful, modest, and smart man, as well as a great scholar and lover of Egypt and its antiquities. He also had a unique sense of humour.

Radwan was born in Tel Al-Kabir in the Ismailia governorate. He graduated from the Department of Egyptology at the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University and received his PhD in Egyptology from the University of Munich in Germany in 1968. He started his career as inspector of antiquities in Fayoum and Beni Sweif and then joined the Faculty of Arts Department of Egyptology as an assistant professor of Egyptology. He was chair of the Department of Egyptology at Cairo University from 1980 to 1987 and then dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University from 1987 to 1993.   

Radwan carried out excavations at the important site of Abusir north of Saqqara that dates from the Early Dynastic Period. His excavations there produced many significant artifacts and introduced new data on Egyptian funerary beliefs in the early period. He provided important help to Egypt and the Arab world in studying and saving their monuments, and he supervised many MA and PhD dissertations at Egyptian universities. He was the founder and head of the Union of Arab Archaeologists until his death.  

He was an internationally renowned scholar, publishing widely on a range of Egyptological topics. However, his most important expertise was in the art of ancient Egypt. He contributed extensively to this topic through his important scholarly publications.

Radwan was gifted at all levels. He will always be remembered for what he did for Egypt and the Arab world and their antiquities as well as for his students all over Egypt and the Arab world. His death represents a great shock to Egyptology and archaeology and to Egyptian and Arab archaeologists everywhere. Scholars all over the world will be sad to hear of the loss of a most respected scholar, a highly appreciated teacher, and a wonderful human being.

He will be very greatly missed, and all condolences are due to his wife, two daughters, and wider family from his colleagues, former students in Egypt and across the world, and all those who knew him.

*The writer is director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.


Short link: