Conference highlights links between Czech and Austrian Egyptology

Ancient Egypt never ceases to fascinate people the world over. Czech Egyptology has an international reputation and its history goes back to the late 19th century when the Czech lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Last week a conference in Prague looked at the links between Czech and Austrian Egyptology.

Radio Prague talked to Hana Navratilova from Charles University's Institute of Egyptology about the latest research and findings.

"I would particularly like to stress the detective work of Dr Gottfried Hamernik who devoted quite a lot of his research time and career to the problems of Egyptian collections which are spread around European museums and even particular collections not yet accessible for the public."

One such collection was put together by a 19th-century Austrian diplomat but after his death bits of it ended up all over Europe. Dr Hamernik discovered a few items in Prague's Naprstek Museum.

"His detective work has brought us pieces of a unique Ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, for quite a long time considered to be lost. Now it seems that there is a chance to have this sarcophagus of an important Egyptian, living in the times of Amenhotep III, reconstructed."

Czech and Austrian Egyptologists also discussed what's known as 19th-century "Egyptomania" and the influence of Ancient Egypt on European art, architecture and even filmmaking. They also tried to revive the memory of a forgotten figure of Czech Egyptology.

"The other highlight is connected with Bohemia a little bit more and it regards the Czech sculptor and quite an interesting man by the name of Frantisek Vladimir Foit who was travelling widely through Egypt and Africa in 1930s and 1940s. He, too, was a keen collector interested in Ancient Egypt and in African cultures in general. His collection and his activities in Egypt were not so well-known. Now, thanks to the work of a couple of our colleagues from Prague and from Slovenia as well Frantisek Vladimir Foit is going to be a little bit better-known, which, I suppose, he really deserves."