"Egyptology's Pioneering Giant" tells of one man's efforts to uncover and transport massive Egyptian artifacts to Britain. His efforts raise challenging questions, which you will explore in these activities.
For students: We hope this guide sharpens your reading skills and deepens your understanding.
For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers at any level.
Common Core Standards met in this lesson: RI9-10.1/W9-10.1 (see details below).

—The Editors
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—Julie Weiss


Egyptology's Pioneering Giant

In the 1800s Europeans competed to bring treasures from ancient Egypt back to Europe. "Egyptology's Pioneering Giant" tells the story of one man's mostly successful efforts to uncover and transport massive Egyptian artifacts to Britain. But his efforts raise challenging questions. By the time you read the article and complete the activities, you will be able to:
  • Describe Giovanni Battista Belzoni's actions in Egypt.
  • Evaluate those actions.
  • Answer the questions posed in the article about Belzoni, using evidence from the article and elsewhere to support your point of view.
The Questions about Giovanni Battista Belzoni

Early in his article, writer Tom Verde presents questions about the subject of "Egyptology's Pioneering Giant," Giovanni Battista Belzoni:
Was Belzoni a desecrator and plunderer of Egypt's pharaonic treasures, or just an Italian bull in an ancient Egyptian sculpture shop who, by his own account, clumsily crushed moldering mummies to dust? Or was he a serious, early archeologist, meticulous by the measure of a time when his profession didn't' even have a name, let alone international standards?
Verde traveled to England and Egypt to find answers to these questions. Although you probably can't do that, you can read what he wrote and come up with your own answers.
Clarify the Questions

A good place to start is by making sure you understand what the author's asking. Working with a small group, read through the questions. If there are words you don't know, look them up. Discuss with your group each part of the questions. When you think you have a good grasp of them, write them in your own words. In that way, you'll be sure you're clear about what you're answering.
Looking for Answers

There are many ways to find answers to questions. Here are a few to guide your exploration.

1. Ask the experts.

You won't be surprised to see that modern-day archeologists have their own opinions about Belzoni. Since they're experts in the field, finding out what they think can provide you with useful information. With your group, find the places in the article where the experts are quoted. Put the quotations in a single document—either hard copy or electronic. Make a note of how each expert evaluates Belzoni's actions. Hold onto the quotes and your notes. You'll be coming back to them.

2. Gather the evidence.

"Egyptology's Pioneering Giant" presents anecdotes about Belzoni's adventures, as well as quotations from the man himself, and some of writer Tom Verde's reactions to Belzoni's doings. Go through the article and mark the passages. You might mark them with different colors to identify which favor Belzoni as an early archeologist as opposed to those that state or imply that he was a destructive bumbler.

Review the experts' words and the evidence in the article. Discuss with your group the date you've gathered—particularly whether it points to one answer or another. Which brings us to a third factor to consider when answering a question:

3. Pay attention to your own thoughts and feelings, and then follow them up with more research.

Do some of the quotes and evidence you've considered seem to you to be more significant (or less significant) than others? Do you find that you have a strong gut reaction that can't be accounted for by the information you've looked at so far?  If so, do some outside research to see whether there might be evidence and/or arguments to support your sense. In other words, as a learner it's OK to follow a hunch. You just need to take on the attitude of a responsible explorer. You may, or may not, find evidence that enables you to mount a rigorous argument to support your idea. Here's an example: Let's say you have a strong sense that it simply wasn't right for Europeans to take artifacts from Egypt. Others, including archeologists, have made that argument. Find some of their writings. How do they support their point of view? Then, to be thorough, find writings from those who support Europeans collecting Egyptian artifacts. Do they make strong arguments? Can you rebut them? If you can, then include them when you make your case, in the part where you acknowledge opposing points of view and explain why they are incorrect. If you can't, maybe you've learned that you need to change your thinking on the subject. And that's fine; that's how learning happens.

Drawing Conclusions

You've read the experts, gathered data and followed up on your hunches. Now you can confidently answer the questions that Tom Verde posed at the beginning of "Egyptology's Pioneering Giant." Do so in a persuasive essay. Use the information and evidence you've gathered to support your answer. Use the information and evidence you've gathered to support your answer. As a class, have people share their answers. If there is significant disagreements, discuss your differing conclusions and re-evaluate your own work. Has your thinking changed? If so, revise your essay to reflect your revised thinking.

Common Core Standards met in this lesson:

RI9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

 W9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.