When a young French general named Bonaparte invaded Egypt in 1798, it sparked a renewed interest in that country and the beautiful antiquities found there. The styles had already been willing adopted by Europeans since the mid-18th century, but now the French were dealing wholesale. Artifacts and antiquities were carted out and eagerly shipped to anyone who could pay for them. The English happily joined in the mania.
The pasha of Egypt at the time, Muhammad Ali, found he could win favor and political advance by helping keep the English well supplied with mummies, carvings, jewelry and all manner of things dug up from the sand. The impression today is that most Egyptians of that time were all too happy to profit from the legal--and illegal--trade in these artifacts. The various sects and cultural groups within the Egyptian population often used the trade in antiquities for their own political purposes and personal gain. Sadly, it was not until many years later when the people of Egypt began to recognize the historical importance of these treasures left behind by their forbearers.
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