Chapter 36: A Baffled and Puzzled Egyptologist

In the summer of 1989, on the initiative of Dr. Desroches-Noblecourt, Professor Claude Vandersleyen of the Collège Erasme, Brussels, was asked to study stylistically and artistically the Mansoor Amarna Collection. For his study, Prof. Vandersleyen was shown all the pieces of the Collection the Mansoors have at the present time, which are illustrated in the 1986 Mansoor catalogue except: 1) Fig. 26, which was sold to a private collector in 1987; 2) Fig. 1, the almost life-size bust of Akhenaten; 3) all the pieces illustrated in the catalogue belonging to private collectors. This was done during three days in a Paris bank where the pieces were kept at that time. During his viewing of the Collection, he took some 400 photos of the pieces in color as well as in black and white, and it was obvious to the Mansoors that he was enthused, admiring at length the extreme beauty of some of them. Michel and Henry noticed this from the way he was pointing out some of their outstanding features to the world-renowned Egyptologist, Dr. Desroches Noblecourt, who was also present. Of course, the Mansoors gave the professor all pertinent material concerning the Amarna Collection; all scientific reports, including Young's, the Stross and Eisenlord Report, the 1975 and 1986 Colonna catalogues, "In Defence . . ." (Nolli and Colonna, 1986), " Je Cherche un Homme . . ." (E.R. Mansoor 1971).

On July 15, 1990, Prof. Vandersleyen wrote the Mansoors a letter enclosing a temporary reflection (report) on the Collection. The Mansoors understand from it that he was not sure whether the objects are genuine or not, and that it would take him a long time to study them. The overall impression the Mansoors had from this temporary report is that he was, perhaps, confused, but to be sure puzzled. Let us consider some of what he wrote (translated from French):

The writer wonders: During what kind of meetings do certain Egyptologists "often discuss, with a smile, the Mansoor style of Egyptian art." As I have mentioned earlier, these secret meetings, "held in the manner of the medieval Star Chamber" (Leonard D. DuBoff), are contrary to academic ethics and moral principles.

Since, according to prof. Vandersleyen, "the scientific analyses do not prove much," what then is the use of further subjecting two or three pieces of the Collection to a "microscopic study" as he suggests? Do the Mansoors have to keep spending time, effort and money on scientific evidence all their life? As for his suggestion, " . . . a friend . . . could perform a microscopic study of the surface . . . ," doesn't it prove that some consideration by Egyptologists should be given to scientific evidence?

In February 1991, the Mansoors sent Dr. Stross a copy of the letter/temporary report and asked him to write a letter to Dr. Desroches Noblecourt and comment on it - particularly because it contained remarks on the scientific aspect as well as on the reports obtained on the Mansoor Collection. Dr. Stross wrote on March 3, 1991:

According to Prof. Vandersleyen, he has known of this Collection for over thirty years, and during all that time he has been aware of the "hushed remarks" about the Mansoor sculptures ("among Egyptologists we often discuss with a smile . . ."). Considering that during the last forty or so years, that this controversy has lasted, not one of Ms. Hochfield's annonymous Egyptologists has contacted the Mansoors to view the Collection. The acceptance by Prof. Vandersleyen to study the Collection at the request of Dr. Desroches Noblecourt is in itself a step in the right direction. As Prof. Vandersleyen told the Mansoors, the Collection deserved to be studied "meritait étude."

So, what's this affair all about? It is about some small, inconsequential people, who followed blindly, someone who blundered pitifully. Had these so-called "scholars" followed the established ethical rules, this controversy-turned-conspiracy would have never happened.

The Mansoors do not know what Prof. Vandersleyen's final opinion will be, but whatever it is, they will consider it to be that of a man of courage and integrity, because he dared to look and find out for himself. Hopefully, others will see fit to emulate him. They too, will be puzzled, by what they will discover, but their efforts will be richly rewarded and their knowledge of the Amarna period will be vastly expanded.

Before closing this chapter, I would like to quote the following from "Je Cherche un Homme . . .1971, (Sequel)."

Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor

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