How should the British schools of archaeology abroad be funded? There are numerous British Schools of Archaeology abroad, some of them of considerable antiquity: the Egypt Exploration society was founded in 1882, the British School at Athens in 1886, and the British School at Rome in 1901. All of them had a mixture of funding from the government and from private sources, but in 1948, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, newly appointed Secretary of the British Academy, approached all the schools and suggested that if the Academy were to put in a joint bid to the government for funding, they would get more all together than they would separately. The schools all agreed, and thus today most of the funding for British archaeology abroad comes via the British Academy. Recently however the Academy, like many other such institutions is coming under increased government pressure to justify its existence, and is thus re-thinking the basis for its funding of the schools.

As a result, two of the schools, in Egypt and Iraq, are to loose their funding. Here we report on the views from each of the schools, followed by a statement from the British Academy by the secretary for Overseas Institutes and Societies, Margot Jackson.

This report concludes with some comments from the Director of the British School at Athens (taken from his annual report) giving his views of the current situation.

We look forward to hearing readers’ view on this thorny subject: offers of funding for the schools in Egypt and Iraq would be particularly welcome.

As a result, two of the schools, in Egypt and Iraq, are to loose their funding. Here we report on the views from each of the schools, followed by a statement from the British Academy by the secretary for Overseas Institutes and Societies, Margot Jackson.

This report concludes with some comments from the Director of the British School at Athens (taken from his annual report) giving his views of the current situation.
We look forward to hearing readers’ view on this thorny subject: offers of funding for the schools in Egypt and Iraq would be particularly welcome. 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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