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by Archaeology Newsroom

Giovanni d’Athanasi, the Lemnian (1798-1854). His role in the discovery of antiquities in Egypt during the first half of the nineteenth century

This article deals with the life and work of Ioannis Athanasiou from Lemnos, the historical island that lies across the sea from the Homeric Ilion. Ioannis Athanasiou, also known as Giovanni d’Athanasi or Yanni, was not only active as an interpreter but is mainly known as excavator of antiquities in Egypt, in the area of Thebes in particular, during the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1816 he entered the service of H. Salt, the English Consul General in Egypt, who for a number of years entrusted to the loyal Greek his excavations, mainly those around Thebes. Athanasiou discovered tombs of noblemen and kings of the Pharaonic Egypt and saw to the enrichment of his employer’s collection. Among his more important discoveries, or dicoveries in which his role was essential, are the tobs of Ramses II, in all probability Amenophis III, Ramses VII and Sethos I, as well as those of many other illustrious members of the ruling class of ancient Egypt. Athanasiou also participated in the opening of Ramses II’s tomb in Abu Sibel and in excavations around the Giza pyramids. The industrious Greek was known to all the distinguished travellers of the time as it becomes obvious from their personal diaries. Their enthusiastic references to the young Yanni is the result not only of his insight, but also of his friendliness, virtues and qualities that made him a reliable personality in the eyes of his contemporary international community in Egypt.