A Brief History of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA): 1858 to present



Until the mid-19th century, there was no regulation of the antiquities trade in Egypt. Thousands of artifacts, from jewelry and statuettes to reliefs and even entire monuments, were taken from their ancient contexts and shipped to private and museum collections around the world. The Western demand for pharaonic artifacts was intensified by the Napoleonic Expedition (1798-1801) and the subsequent publication of the multi-volume Description de lEgypte, which stimulated global interest in Egypt and its ancient monuments.

The first step toward the control of Egyptian antiquities was taken on 15 August 1835, when the ruler of Egypt, Mohamed Ali issued a decree banning the unauthorized removal of antiquities from the country. This decree also designated a building in the Ezbekiah Gardens, Cairo, to serve as a storehouse for artifacts. Unfortunately, these antiquities were often given by Egyptian rulers to foreign dignitaries as gifts, and by the mid-1800s, the collection was so small that it could be housed in a single room at the Citadel. In 1855 what remained of the collection was presented by Abbas Pasha as a gift to the Austrian Archduke Maximilian.

In 1858 Said Pasha, then Viceroy of Egypt, approved the creation of the Antiquities Service (officially the Service des Antiquits) to stem the continuing illicit trade in Egyptian artifacts, and appointed French scholar Auguste Mariette as its director. This new governmental department was responsible for carrying out its own excavations, and also for approving and supervising foreign archaeological missions. Mariette created the first national museum in the Near East, which opened in 1863 in an old City Transit Authority building in the Boulaq section of Cairo.

For almost a century, the Antiquities Service was headed by French scholars. In the early 1950s, when British colonial troops finally left Egypt, the Antiquities Service truly became an Egyptian-run organization.. The first Egyptian director, Mostafa Amer, was appointed in 1953 and held the post for three years. For many years, the Antiquities Service was under the direction of the Ministry of Education; in 1960, it was transferred to the Ministry of Culture. In 1971, during the tenure of Gamal Mokhtar, the Antiquities Service was renamed the Egyptian Antiquities Organization (EAO).

In 1994, the name of the department was changed to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) by Presidential Decree Number 82. The first Secretary General of the SCA was Mohammed Abdel Halim Nur el-Din. In january 2011 the SCA became an independent ministry and the name was changed to Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA). The current Secretary General of the SCA is Mohammad Ibrahim.
Antiquities Service  
French Directors  
Auguste Mariette (1858-1881)
Gaston Maspero (1881-1886)
Eugne Grbaut (1886-1892)
Jacques de Morgan (1892-1897)
Victor Loret (1897-1899)
Gaston Maspero (1899-1914)
Pierre Lacau (1914-1936)
Étienne Drioton (1936-1952)
Egyptian Directors  
Mostafa Amer (1953-1956)
Abbas Bayoumi (1956-1957)
Moharram Kamal (1957-1959)
Abd el-Fattah Hilmy (1959)
Mohammed Anwar Shoukry (1960-1964)
Mohammed Mahdi (1964-1966)
Gamal Mokhtar (1967-1971)
Egyptian Antiquities Organization  
Gamal Mokhtar (1971-1977)
Mohammed Abd el-Qader Mohammed (1977-1978)
Shehata Adam (1978-1981)
Fuad el-Oraby (1981)
Ahmed Khadry (1982-1988)
Mohammed Abdel Halim Nur el-Din (1988)
Sayed Tawfik (1989-1990)
Mohammed Ibrahim Bakr (1990-1993)
Supreme Council of Antiquities  
Mohammed Abdel Halim Nur el-Din (1993-1996)
Ali Hassan (1996-1997)
Gaballa Ali Gaballa (1997-2002)
Zahi Hawass (2002-2011)
Mohamed Abdel Fattah (2011)
Moustapha Amine (20112013)
Mohammad Ibrahim (present)


Belzoni removing a statue of Ramses II from the Ramesseum (unknown)


Auguste Mariette (unknown)


The Boulaq Museum (SCA Archives)


Ahmed Pasha Kamal (1851-1923), the first Egyptian scholar of Egyptology. (SCA Archives)


Dr. Zahi Hawass, Former Secretary General of the SCA (Ken Garrett)



Back to top