The Expedition to Egypt offered a point of anchorage in the construction of Egyptian archaeology which developed under a strong French influence: the decipherment of hieroglyphs by Champollion, the direction of Le Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte between 1858 and 1952, and the creation of a scientific school based in Cairo in 1880, the future Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
1842 marked the beginning of the French archaeological adventure in Iraq, when the French Consul Paul-Emile Botta opened the first excavation site in Nineva. In 1843, he started the digs in Khorsabad that in 1847 led to the foundation of the first Assyrian museum in the West.
The scholarly French presence on the territory of the current kingdom of Hachemite Jordan goes back to 1828, with the pioneer exploration of Petra by the engineer L. M. Linant de Bellefonds and the young Léon de Laborde. Their account was published in 1830 under the title Voyage de l’Arabie Pétrée.
Lebanon’s main sites have never been forgotten. However, it was necessary to wait for the second half of the 19th century to witness the real beginnings of a scholarly exploration of the country, with the Phoenician mission directed by E. Renan, preceded by travellers who had brought back drawings, accounts, photos, as well as the first surveys and plans.
The first scientific excavations in Palestine were initiated over a 150 years ago by French scholars. Because of the special status of the Holy Land, archaeology there has always involved specific issues.
It was during the period of the French Mandate that the great archaeological missions were launched in the Near East (Syria-Lebanon) and that the excavation service was organised. René Dussaud was the linchpin and main organiser, while Henri Seyrig took charge of the reorganisation of the Service of Antiquities, then the direction of the French Institute of Damascus.
The Latakia trove is a collection of silver coins dating from the 2nd century BCE which was discovered in 1759, buried in a vase on the Syrian coast, near Latakia. The exact number of the coins that it contained is unknown: probably over a hundred.