Gaston Maspero (born Gaston Camille Charles Maspero) was born on 23rd June 1846 in a family of poor Italian immigrants in France. Two decisive events excited his interest in the Orient and Egypt.
When he was eleven, Gaston Maspero came in the bookstore, where he went pretty frequently. He wanted to buy a book about Egypt, but the price was too high for a child with only few francs in his pocket. The bookseller was both amused and surprised by his maturity and sold him the book at a deep discount. Further roles in this story played wise teacher, a rain shower and the closeness to the Louvre. So Gaston Maspero got into the halls devoted to Egypt, and it became the love of a lifetime.
Maspero and his meeting with Marietto
The second meeting with Egyptian civilization came through the Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, who had been leading the Egyptian Antiquities Service for the tenth year.
In 1867, when Gaston Maspero was 21, he got the degree at the Faculty of Philosophy. During the study he didn’t miss any lecture of Emmanuel de Rougé, the curator of the Egyptian collections. However, most of knowledge Maspero gained by self-study – he diligently visited Louvre and studied the writings of Champollion. But he was satisfied enough even with these works, so he compiled his own vocabulary and grammar.
August Mariette heard about this young man from Emmanuel de Rougé, but at first he was skeptical of his abilities. But Maspero convinced Marietto, when he sent him a translation of the stele from Gebel Barkal (also Jebel Barkal). Then Mariette acknowledged that this young man is a great Egyptologist – at least from a philological point of view
Maspero and his beginnings in Egypt
Maspero worked as an educator in Latin America for some time, but he soon returned to France. In 1870 he got French nationality and renewed contacts with local Egyptologists. The end of 1880 brought to Maspero a major breakthrough. Auguste Mariette was getting old, suffered from illnesses, so it was necessary to find his replacement for leading the Egyptian department of the new museum at Bulak. On 28th December 1880 a permanent mission was formed in Egypt and Gaston Maspero was appointed as a head of it. Finally he got into the dream land – Egypt.
His first big success was the revelation of a tomb robbers group, who were gathered around al-Rasul family on the west bank of Thebes (Waset). The thing it that Ahmad Abd al-Rasul found a rich hiding place of New Kingdom royal mummies, when he was looking for a stray goat. He had been taking antiques away for 10 years and had been selling them on the black market. Maspero revealed whole group in 1881 and rescued the antiques for the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.