The Egypt Exploration Society (EES) has recently heard that, in two years’ time, it will lose its funding from the British Academy.

The EES is one of the oldest British archaeological societies, founded in 1882 and celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2007. Its main premises (Offices, Library and Archive) are in London with a small Cairo office within the British Council’s premises there. The EES is the principal British institution carrying out archaeological excavations and research in Egypt and also gives logistical assistance to other British missions working in the field.

Since 1949 the Society has been the recipient of government funding, initially directly, and then via the British Academy and it is this funding which will cease in 2009.

The Egypt Exploration Society has always been somewhat anomalous as, unlike the British schools in Athens or Rome, for example, the EES has never been encumbered by expensive school accommodation abroad. After renting London properties for almost one hundred years, in 1969 the Society purchased premises in Doughty Mews, just off Gray’s Inn Road in London.

The British Academy grant of £94,000 in 2005-2006 represented 29% of the Society’s total income for the year and its loss will inevitably lead to economies and a search for alternative sources of funding.

The British Academy is reorganising its grants to move away from the present Mediterranean and Near East bias, and to reflect more of a worldwide basis. They also wish to move away from the traditional emphasis on archaeology so that the British Schools reflect more its overall remit to support the humanities and social sciences. They are therefore eliminating the grants to the EES and to the British School in Iraq, though both will receive reduced grants for the next two years as a transitional measure. In its place there will be a new focus on the Caribbean and South America and they are offering two grants of £20,000 each to set up seminars in these areas. There is a danger that the Academy’s new focus on multi-cultural activities may hinder the schools in their appeal to their members, and in their fundraising activities, and thus the EES and the Iraq School may well be better off out – in the long run.

The EES is now facing up to the challenge of life after the British Academy grant ends. It will continue to concentrate on Ancient Egypt and Nubia and on multidisciplinary archaeological research, covering over 5,000 years of Egyptian history from the earliest traces of human activity in Egypt to AD 1800. The EES recently launched an appeal for its ‘Excavation Fund’ and the Society is also raising annual subscription rates to members for the first time since 1999. Membership of the Society is open to anyone with an interest in ancient Egypt and applications can be made on-line (www.ees.ac.uk) as can donations to the Excavation Fund, which will help the Society’s exciting fieldwork and research programme to continue. For further information on how you might support the EES, please visit www.ees.ac.uk/supporting_ees.htm or contact the Society on contact@ees.ac.uk.

On the plus-side they will now be freed from the burdens of having to toe the government’s line and chant the government’s mantras. The EES can look forward to an independent future.


This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 22. Click here to subscribe

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