Weblecture: Pioneer to the Past: James Henry Breasted and the Birth of American Egyptology

Emily Teeter, PhD'90, is an Egyptologist and research associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

James Henry Breasted (1865-1935), the founder of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, is one of the most important figures in the growth of Egyptology in North America. Emily Teeter's lecture will explore how this field developed through the colorful life and career of James Henry Breasted--from his birth in Rockford, Illinois, to his rise as a giant figure in Egyptology whose legacy is still felt at the University of Chicago and throughout the world.

From his initial study of Christian scripture, Breasted expanded his view to explore the importance of Egypt and the ancient Middle East in the rise of Western civilization. With the spectacular synergy of his vision and charisma and his innate ability to attract loyal benefactors, especially John D. Rockefeller Jr., Breasted reinvented the way Americans regarded the ancient past. Every aspect of American Egyptology--the growth of museum collections, the invention of epigraphy, the rise of popular books on the ancient Near East, the interpretation of the tomb of Tutankhamun, even abortive plans to build a spectacular new museum in Cairo--bore Breasted's stamp and influence.