Agatha Christie and 19th century women explorers

  • Published: Wednesday, 24 September 2014 19:49
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Discover with Christiane Angibous-Esnault:

From Jane to Agatha Christie to Chris
Travel diaries of the great adventurers

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From Jane to Agatha Christie to Chris
Or how archaeology is experienced by non-archaeologists

Come, Tell Me How You Live coverThey conquered the world.

In the first half of the 19th century, conquerors of a new gender arose; no longer courtesans, those women wanted to be geographers, botanists, ethnologists...

Great travellers or great adventurers, they dressed as men so that no one questioned their virtue. For their daily life, these women lived in the hard way, putting aside their exhaustion, and taking all the risks.

Never losing hope and always keeping a sense of humor, they roamed the world and wrote down the stories of their travels. Their writings turned out to be precious gold mines for the knowledge of worlds then often unknown.

Their curiosity about the world and the quest for their own truth required courage to disobey and to free themselves from the social constraints of their time. It is by daring to “stand upright” that they contributed to our modernity by becoming a link in the long chain that leads to Knowledge.

At the dawn of the 20th century, one of them took the leap with her husband. Strengthened by the hardships of the war of 1870, Jane Dieulafoy and her husband Marcel decided to achieve their dream and to head East. In 1881, Persia was a wild and dangerous land.

First by boat and then on horseback, they travelled along the Persian roads for fourteen months, and inventoried and photographed all the monuments, mosques, bridges, etc. which they encountered on their way. Jane Dieulafoy, who speaks Persian, meticulously kept a diary, covering not only archaeological aspects but also the Persian environment and society, with humor and precision. A second trip led them to Suza in 1883. There, they discovered the Frieze of Lions, the ramp of the staircase leading to Artaxerxes palace, and the Frieze of the Archers, that they brought back to France to be put on display at the Musée du Louvre. On October 20th, 1886, the museum inaugurated the two rooms named after the Dieulafoys.

For having paved the way for Persian archaeology, Jane Dieulafoy will receive the Legion of Honor, leaving in her wake the first seeds for women in archaeology.

More recently, Agatha Christie, after married Max Mallowan, archaeologist, followed him on each of his campaigns of excavations in the Near East. While being an active and efficient collaborator, she compiled a wealth of information which proved useful in writing several of her novels.

Even more recently, Agnès Spycket, senior archaeologist at ArkéoTopia and specialist of statuary, fought in a field dominated by men and strangled by conventions to go to Suza. Thanks to her professionalism and to her painstaking work, she managed to fulfill her dream and to contribute to the advent of archaeology today.

From the 19th century to nowadays, we will follow Jane, Agatha, Agnès, and Chris; the latter will tell you about life with an archaeologist, mentioning Agatha Christie’s humorous descriptions and her own way in the archaeology universe, and more particularly in the Near Estern one.


Christiane Angibous-EsnaultAfter completing a traditional program and graduating in both Business and Communication degrees, Christiane Angibous-Esnault chose to work for the private sector, and put her skills to use for international companies (Schering, Pharmacia). Curious, dynamic, and full of talent (see her website, Christiane Angibous-Esnault was granted several awards for her written work. In 1994, she created the association La Trace to share her passion for cultural discoveries, sports and nature activities. Her meeting with archaeologist Jean-Olivier Gransard-Desmond in 2002 oriented her activities towards archaeology, as she helped him illustrate his research. A first exhibition Egypt: Gods and Men in 2005 (Egyptian Cultural Center in Paris, Abbey of Roë, Cultural Center of Ville d’Avray) and other activities led her to co-found ArkeoTopia, an alternative approach to archaeology, in May 2007.




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