Jean Capart, the founder of Egyptology in Belgium

28th of May 2020

Previously unseen images of King Leopold III of the Belgians on the Pyramid of Cheops were unearthed during research undertaken by historian Jean-Michel Bruffaerts while preparing a biography of Jean Capart, the famous Belgian Egyptologist.

Supported by the Jean Capart Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, the research project Pyramids and Progress: Belgian expansionism and the making of Egyptology, 1830-1952 brought together historians of the contemporary period and Egyptologists from the ULB, KU Leuven, UGent, the Museum of Art and History and the Royal Museum of Mariemont. The aim of the research is to show, from a Belgian perspective, how political, economic and scientific networks and interactions between 1830 and 1952 shaped the discipline of Egyptology.

As part of the research project, historian Jean-Michel Bruffaerts was finalising a biography of the Egyptologist Jean Capart and, quite recently, he made an astonishing discovery whilst doing research at the Cinematek.

Jean-Michel uncovered a film dating from 1923 in which the young Leopold, aged 22 at the time and heir to the Belgian throne, together with the famous Belgian Egyptologist Jean Capart, can be seen climbing the Pyramid of Cheops. At the summit of the pyramid, not only did they enjoy an impressive view over the whole valley, but were also served tea!

In fact, during this trip, Leopold - grandfather of the current Belgian King, Philippe - accompanied by his mother Queen Elisabeth, had travelled to Egypt to attend the official opening of the third funeral chamber of Tutankhamun.

The EOS project (Excellence of Science) aims to boost fundamental research in Belgium by encouraging collaborative projects between researchers in the (Flemish) north and (French-speaking) south of Belgium.

The Jean Capart Fund is providing support of € 79,510 to this EOS project and more particularly to the research leading to the publication of the scientific biography of Jean Capart. The Fund’s objective is to promote the historical heritage of Belgian Egyptologist Jean Capart with a view to further promoting the historical and scientific aspects of Egyptology in Belgium.