100th birth anniversary of K. Michałowski

Palmyra 2004. Uncovering and cleaning of a mosaic floor of the 3rd century AD


Professor Kazimierz Michałowski, scholar and erudite, recognized researcher and founder of the Polish school of Mediterranean archaeology, died 25 years ago. The anniversary of his death falls practically seventy years to the day after he opened his first excavations in Tell Edfu in Upper Egypt. That first choice of archaeological site for exploration proved very apt and in the years to come the Professor was to confirm repeatedly his extraordinary ability to choose well. That first Polish expedition, mounted jointly with the Institut Français d’Archeologie Orientale (IFAO), explored an extensive sector of the ancient town of Apollonopolis Magna, uncovering also a necropolis from the end of the Old Kingdom and the First Intermediate Period.

Edfu 1937. From left, Prof. B. Bruyere, Prof. K. Michałowski and Prof. J. Manteuffel with the kom in the background

In 1939, many of the finds from Edfu, including false doors and stelae, papyri and ostraca were brought to Warsaw, contributing to the collection of the newly established Ancient Art Gallery at the National Museum in Warsaw. After World War II, successive generations of Michałowski’s students became involved in the study and publication of this material, always under the observant eye of the Professor who served as the Museum’s Deputy Director from May 1945 until his death.

Foremost in Michałowski’s life, however, was his teaching as a university teacher. He started lecturing in Warsaw University’s Chair of Classical Archaeology already in the 1930s. He headed the department as well, working regularly to develop the curriculum to include issues connected with field archaeology. Seminars were devoted to the subject, and many MA studies and several doctorates were written specifically on field methodology. In the end effect, graduate researchers from this Chair were well prepared to undertake archaeological fieldwork on ancient sites. In the 1960s, the unit was renamed the Chair of Mediterranean Archaeology and today Mediterranean archaeology at Warsaw University is part of the curriculum of the Institute of Archaeology, which includes the departments of Classical Archaeology, Aegean Archaeology, Archaeology of the Near East, Egypt and Nubia, Archaeology of the Roman Provinces, Papyrology, and History of the Material Culture of Antiquity. Fieldwork, preliminary reporting, data collection and final publication of excavation results is the responsibility of the Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology, an independent, non-teaching institution operating within the structure of Warsaw University.

In those early postwar years, the Professor was equally active in many other related fields. He was one of the organizers of the Warsaw University Reconstruction Committee charged with rebuilding the ruined university facilities. He served as dean of the Faculty of the Humanities and University Vice Rector, and was one of the organizers of the First Congress of Polish Science, which prepared the ground for the founding of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He became a Board Member of the Academy in 1950 and six years later founded the Academy’s Research Center of Mediterranean Archaeology dedicated to the collection and processing

1.Saqqara 1976. Professor Kazimierz Michałowski in the area of the Serapeum

of field documentation. The Research Center, which has been directed for years by Michałowski’s student, Prof. Karol Myśliwiec, prides itself today on multi-volume publication series concerning the work carried out in Palmyra, Deir el-Bahari, Alexandria, Faras, Dongola and Saqqara.

In 1956, Michałowski took advantage of his background in Classical archaeology and his field experience acquired in French excavations on Thasos and Delos to undertake investigations of a site from the world of Ancient Greek civilization. Having signed an agreement between the National Museum in Warsaw and the Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg (then Leningrad), he conducted three seasons of fieldwork on the site of Mirmeki in the Crimea. The research confirmed the importance of the town as a center of the Bosporan Kingdom, while the collection of small finds, including terracottas, pottery and stamped amphora handles received by the National Museum prompted a growing interest among young researchers in the archaeology and ancient culture of the Black Sea region. Studies continued by the Professor’s students, Prof. Maria Ludwika Bernhard (excavations at Kalos Limen) and Prof. Zofia Sztetyłło, resulted not only in a series of research publications, but also in the education of a new generation of researchers engaged in the study of the Black Sea littoral in Antiquity.


The year 1956 also marked the Professor’s return to Egypt and the opening of excavations at Tell Atrib on the outskirts of modern Benha in the Nile Delta. The explorations, which were repeatedly interrupted and resumed in various sectors of the ancient town, proved to be a veritable archaeological field school carried out in the difficult terrain of the Delta where the trenches frequently filled up with ground water. The work in what proved to be Hellenistic Egypt’s most important urban agglomeration in the Delta after Alexandria was continued successfully by Dr. Barbara Ruszczyc, followed by Prof. Karol Myśliwiec and Dr. Hanna Szymańska.

Nea Paphos. Mosaic with a representation of Theseus combating the Minotaur

In the wake of the accomplishments of Polish archaeologists working on the Nile, Polish authorities decided to establish a permanent research station in Cairo. This institution, which was opened in 1957, operated alongside renowned research institutions like the French, German and American Institutes, providing a permanent base from which Polish archaeologists could work not only in Egypt but also in other countries of the region. Two years later excavations started in Palmyra (Syria) and in 1965 in Nea Paphos on Cyprus. Michałowski was officially in charge of the Station, which was run in Egypt by a Research Secretary. The first to hold this post was Egyptologist Dr. Tadeusz Andrzejewski and after his premature death Dr. Władysław Kubiak took over, followed shortly by Prof. Wiktor Andrzej Daszewski, who headed the Center until the Professor’s death in 1981.


The Professor’s authority as a scholar and his spectacular discoveries led the authorities of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (now the Supreme Council of Antiquities) to invite Polish participation in the exploration of known and prestigious sites like Kom el-Dikka in the center of Alexandria (1960) and the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari in West Thebes (1961). These two projects (much like the research in Palmyra and Nea Paphos) were so far-flung that excavations abounding in the discovery of important architectural complexes, resplendent mosaic floors and exquisite statuary have continued until the present day. Professor Michałowski personally directed only the excavations in Palmyra, but he was instrumental in setting down research directions elsewhere. Starting with the second field season the work in Nea Paphos has been directed by Prof. W.A. Daszewski, and in Palmyra first by Prof. Anna Sadurska and from 1971 by Prof. Michał Gawlikowski. At Deir el-Bahari, Dr. Leszek Dąbrowski initially ran the explorations, while the Temple of Tuthmosis III was excavated by Prof. Jadwiga Lipińska. Her expedition completed the gargantuan task of fitting together thousand of shattered blocks in order to piece together the wall decoration of the lost temple.

Alexandria 2006. Computer reconstruction of the Theater Building on Kom el-Dikka

As for Kom el-Dikka in Alexandria, it would hardly have looked the way it does today were it not for the Professor’s status in the academic hierarchy and his negotiation skills which allowed him to persuade the municipal authorities to abandon plans for developing this particular area of the city as Alexandria’s Manhattan. The extensive archaeological park which includes restored porticoes and public buildings (baths, cistern, theater and related lecture halls) is the effect of years of explorations and restoration work by a group of archaeologists and architects directed successively by Dr. Leszek Dąbrowski, Dr. Wojciech Kołątaj, Dr. Mieczysław Rodziewicz, Prof. Zsolt Kiss and most recently Dr. Grzegorz Majcherek.

The Hatshepsut Mission at Deir el-Bahari started out as a conservation and reconstruction project that was carried out for close to two decades by architect Zygmunt Wysocki from the Gdańsk branch of PP PKZ, a Polish company dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage. The Egyptological research during this time was in the hands of Dr. Janusz Karkowski. Dr. Franciszek Pawlicki and Dr. Zbigniew E. Szafrański effectively completed the work in the Upper Courtyard of the temple, which was officially opened to the public in 2000. By the same, Michałowski’s vision of 45 years ago had been put into life. The success is counted not so much in the number of restored porticos and colonnades, as in a whole generation of scholars and researchers who have been educated in the field and have gained practical experience working on the temple architecture and iconography of the Pharaonic New Kingdom and various aspects of the archaeology of Egypt from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine age. This opened the way for the Center to conduct excavations on other sites representing these periods: Marina el-Alamein (Prof. W.A. Daszewski), Marea (Dr. H. Szymańska), Pelusium (Prof. M. Gawlikowski, Dr. K. Jakubiak), as well as the above-mentioned Tell Atrib. Many Polish researchers were regularly associated with foreign expeditions working in Egypt, e.g. Prof. Lech Krzyżaniak at Minshat Abu Omar, Dr. Ewa Laskowska-Kusztal on the island of Elephantine, Dr. Z. Szafrański in Tell el-Daaba, Anna Południkiewicz in Tebtynis.


The 1960s campaign mounted by UNESCO to save the monuments of ancient Lower Nubia proved to be of marked importance in the Professor’s research life. Michałowski headed an international commission of experts supervising the transfer of the rock temple of Ramesses II in Abu Simbel, and many of his associates and Station staff cut their teeth on excavations in Qasr Ibrim and the dismantling of temples in Dabod and Tafa. But what proved to be of greatest importance for Polish archaeology in general were the excavations undertaken in the small Sudanese village of Faras just beyond the border with Egypt. The discovery of an Early Christian cathedral with wonderfully preserved wall paintings was deservedly called the “Miracle of Faras”. The numerous inscriptions in Coptic, Greek and Old Nubian, including the famous List of Bishops, turned out to be of no less importance for understanding the history of ancient Nubia. The discoveries in Faras, followed by excavations in Old Dongola (begun in 1964), gave rise to a new field of studies, Nubiology, of which Michałowski was a nestor, having also founded the Society for Nubian Studies and holding the position of its first President. The finds brought to Warsaw, including 62 murals now on permanent display at the National Museum in Warsaw, research on the material, as well as further spectacular discoveries made in Old Dongola (excavations carried out by Dr. Stefan Jakobielski and Prof. Włodzimierz Godlewski) created enormous study opportunities for a whole group of researchers interested in Early Christianity in Nubia and Egypt. No better proof of the position held by Polish scholars of Christian Nubia than the International Conference of Nubian Studies held in 2006 at Warsaw University and the accompanying exhibit of current excavations at Old Dongola mounted at the National Museum in Warsaw.

 Banganarti 2002. Excavations in the Upper Church of the Archangel Raphael

New finds in this sphere have come from excavations at Banganarti (Dr. Bogdan Żurawski) and the project investigating social transformation processes that led to the founding of Makurian society on the base of the fading Meroitic civilization (Prof. W. Godlewski, Dr. Mahmoud el-Tayeb). Polish expeditions have also answered the international appeal for salvage work in the region of the Fourth Cataract on the Nile, which is to be inundated once the Merowe dam is constructed. Site inventory, aerial reconnaissance (Dr. B. Żurawski) and excavations are being conducted over a distance of 45 km along the eastern bank of the Nile. Apart from numerous Early Christian fortresses dotting the region, the teams have also explored sites from the Stone Age (Dr. Marek Chłodnicki of the Archaeological Museum in Poznań).


From the start, research on the origins of civilization in the Valley of the Nile was an important part of the Center’s program. Prof. Lech Krzyżaniak carried out excavations on the Neolithic site of Kadero in Sudan and investigated the prehistoric rock art in Dakhleh Oasis in Egypt. Investigations by Prof. Bolesław Ginter and Prof. Janusz K. Kozłowski (Jagiellonian University, Kraków) at el-Tariff, Prof. Michał Kobusiewicz (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy, Poznań Branch) at Kom el-Hisn and Prof. Romuald Schild (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy, Warsaw Branch) in northeastern Africa, while not the Centre’s projects, have always enjoyed the full support of the Cairo office.

Tell el-Farcha 2006. Figurines made of hippopotamus tusks from a temple deposit made around 3000 BC

Recent spectacular discoveries made on the Predynastic and Early Dynastic site of Tell el-Farkha in the eastern Delta by a team directed by Prof. Krzysztof A. Ciałowicz (Jagiellonian University, Kraków) and Dr. M. Chłodnicki, acting under the auspices of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, has impacted the current understanding of art from the period of the formation of Egyptian statehood in the Nile Valley.


Polish archaeologists have also explored sites from the Byzantine period and the Arab Middle Ages in Egypt. For the past twenty years Prof. Włodzimierz Godlewski’s team has been investigating Deir el-Naqlun in Fayum Oasis, discovering a monastic complex and 89 rock-cut hermitages established in the end of the 5th century AD. The monastery has remained in use, incorporating within its walls the ancient church of the archangel Gabriel. Finds include numerous liturgical texts, as well as administrative and economic documents on papyrus and parchment. Since 2003 a team directed by Tomasz Górecki has been researching a Coptic hermitage in Sheikh Abd el-Gurna (West Thebes). The manuscripts discovered on a rubbish heap there have contributed significantly to studies of Christianity in the Thebaid. For more than three decades, a Polish-Egyptian expedition has also concentrated on extensive conservation and restoration of the funerary complex of Emir Qurqumas situated in Cairo’s City of the Dead. The ruined Mamluk complex was investigated archaeologically and reconstructed, with many wooden and stone elements being painstakingly conserved. For many years the mission was directed by architect and engineer Jerzy Kania (from the Kielce branch of PP PKZ). Architect Jarosław Dobrowolski was also in charge of the work for a period of time. The neighboring complex of Sultan Inal was also structurally protected (Dr. Andrzej Żaboklicki).


Perhaps the greatest change that Polish Mediterranean archaeology has undergone in the quarter of a century after Michałowski’s death concerns the scope of its involvement in countries of the broadly understood Levant. In his time Professor Michałowski supervised the work in Palmyra for many seasons, supported the organization of a mission in Nimrud (Dr. Janusz Meuszyński), as well as salvage projects in northern and central Iraq (including Tell Rijim – Prof. Piotr Bieliński, Nemrik – Prof. Stefan K. Kozłowski, and Bijan Island on the Euphrates – Prof. M. Gawlikowski, Dr. Maria Krogulska). Even so, the majority of the Centre’s projects were in Egypt and Sudan.
Palmyra. Guardian lion from the Temple of Allat

Today, the excavations in Palmyra (Prof. M. Gawlikowski) continue to bring spectacular discoveries and regular excavations are conducted concurrently at Tell Arbid (Prof. P. Bieliński) and Tell Qaramel (Prof. Ryszard F. Mazurowski). Archaeological and conservation works in the small village of Hawarte near ancient Apamea (Prof. M. Gawlikowski) have restored to splendor a rock-cut Mithreum featuring unique and well preserved wall paintings. Mention should be made of Dr. M. Krogulska’s and Prof. P. Bieliński’s excavations at Tell Abu Hafur, Tell Jassa el-Gharbi (Syria), the activities of Prof. M. Gawlikowski in Gerasa (Jordan) and Hatra (Iraq). In association with a Belgian team, mosaic floors from a ruined church in Tell Amarna were excavated (Dr. Tomasz Waliszewski) and conserved (Dr. Krzysztof Chmielewski, Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw). The latter two specialists have also conducted extensive investigations and conservation in Chhim, Jiyeh and Kaftun in Lebanon, as well as a survey of Eshmoun Valley, also in Lebanon (this by Dr. Krzysztof Jakubiak and Michał Neska).


The growing number of expeditions working on ever new sites and projects necessitated a change of the Centre’s organization and administrative structure. Prof. Zofia Sztetyłło took over the management of the Centre immediately after Michałowski’s death. The Polish Center of Mediterranean Archaeology of Warsaw University, bearing Michałowski’s name in its official Polish designation, was established officially in 1986. The seat of the Centre is now in Warsaw, the Station in Cairo serving as a regional office. It supervises all of the expeditions working under the auspices of the Centre. One of the organizers of this institution and its first director was Prof. Wiktor A. Daszewski. He was followed in this position by Prof. Michał Gawlikowski who held it for 14 years. The current Director, since 2005, is Prof. Piotr Bieliński. The post of Research Secretary in Cairo was held successively by Dr. Włodzimierz Godlewski (1977-1980 and 1985), Dr. Marek Marciniak (1981-1984), Dr. Franciszek Pawlicki (1985-1995) and Tomasz Herbich (1995-2000). Since 2000, there are two Deputy Directors in lieu of the Research Secretary ? Dr. Zbigniew E. Szafrański and Dr. Grzegorz Majcherek.

The research program and priorities of field expeditions organized or supervised by the Centre are approved and monitored by the Centre’s Scientific Advisory Council. Field documentation is collected and processed by the Centre’s Documentation Unit, providing a basis for the preparation of preliminary reports published yearly in the Centre’s own periodical, Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, as well as monographs and final publications. Much of the photographic documentation over the years has been made by Waldemar Jerke, the Centre’s staff photographer for the past 40 years. Efficient coordination and organization of fieldwork abroad is ensured by the Centre’s Warsaw office managed from the beginning by Krystyna Polaczek.


For the past ten seasons Prof. Karol Myśliwiec has conducted excavations in the royal necropolis in Saqqara. His team’s spectacular discoveries of the tombs of the Vizier Merefnebef and archpriest Temi bring to mind Professor Michałowski’s uncovering of the mastabas of Izi and Sabni in Edfu seventy years ago. Associations with the past run deeper than that. Some, like the wall paintings from Dongola and Banganarti, concern specific categories of finds, others, like the various Nubian campaigns, refer to whole research projects, yet others, like the mosaic floors from Nea Paphos and Palmyra, are the effect of continued work on sites where Professor Michałowski began excavations years ago. But there is no better evidence for the continuity of the development of the Polish school of Mediterranean archaeology than the sum total of these various links and associations. It also testifies to the current position of Polish Mediterranean archaeology as represented by the work and achievements of the Polish Centre ? number of sites excavations, publications prepared and researchers active in the field. It is the purpose of this modest exhibition to illustrate in more or less general terms the history and scope of the Centre’s successes and its present position.

Text: Franciszek Pawlicki

Saqqara 2002. The interior of a funerary chapel of the Vizier Merefnebef