Frederic Cailliaud (1787-1869) , traveler born in Nantes on June 9, 1787, died in Nantes on May 1, 1869. He was of a humble origin, his father exercising the profession of locksmith-mechanic. Attracted early by his tastes towards the natural sciences, he began by learning geology and mineralogy alone. He went to Paris in 1809 to complete his studies. At the end of four years, already possessor of a large sum of knowledge, he wanted to increase them and undertook for this purpose trips which made him know Holland, Italy, Sicily, Greece in part, Turkey of Europe and Turkey from Asia. The year 1815 brought him to Egypt, where he found favor with the pasha, the famous Mohammed Ali ( Mehemet Ali ), who charged him to traverse the deserts which border the two banks of the Nile, in order to make some discoveries. He entered Nubia until the last cataracts and explored the monuments found there. This was only part of his task, and the great desert on the West Bank attracted him ( Exploring Africa ).
But before he had the good fortune to find, at Mount Zabarah , the famous emerald mines exploited in Egyptian antiquity, a source of great revenue for the Pharaohs, highly vaunted by classical writers, by Arab writers, and having left in the memory of the people, one of those fantastic reputations so common in the East. Cailliaud found them as they were at the moment when the workers had abandoned them under the Ptolemies . He caught the secrets of exploitation and found the instruments that were being used. The underground galleries reached a great depth; they were spacious enough to allow four hundred workmen to work there at once, and they contained in abundance cordage, baskets, millstones, levers, altars of all kinds, vases, lamps, furniture, etc.
The traveler wished to give himself the pleasure of continuing the exploitation, and collected up to ten books of emeralds. But, despite this relative success, the exploitation was never resumed for the plausible reason that it did not bring in enough to offset the costs. Near the mines was a small town that was to be inhabited by the miners: in the middle of the city, there were Greek-Egyptian temples with inscriptions. Proud of this first success, he resolved to follow, on the indication of the Arabs of the tribe of Abadeh and Bischarris, a road which led the caravans of the city of Coptos (at Keft) to another town on the banks of This second city was none other than the city of Berenice, and the road was that which was used for the traffic of Egypt with the countries of the Far East, at about 24 ° of latitude, and near the Elbe mountain.
During all these voyages, Cailliaud took the greatest care to make geological and mineralogical observations, to describe the customs of the countries, to draw the costumes, to draw an itinerary with maps, to copy the inscriptions. When he returned to France, he had a wallet stuffed with documents and a considerable collection of antiquities bought on the spot, mainly in Thebes. The whole was acquired by the Ministry of Public Instruction and entrusted to Jomard to be published as a continuation of the great work of the Commission of Egypt. This publication appeared in 1821, in 2 vols. in fol., under the title: Journey to the oasis of Thebes, in the deserts situated to the East and West of the Thebaid, made during the years 1815, 1816, 1817 and 1818 .
Arrived in Paris at the end of February 1819, Cailliaud was already back in Egypt at the end of the same year, in charge of a scientific mission from the French government. He carried out his research on the oasis side, under the protection of the Pasha and the conduct of a resident of one of these oases, which he had found in the city of Fayoum . For four months he traversed the deserts, going from Syouah to Falafre, from Dakhel to El-Khargeh, raising the plans of the temples, among others that of Zeus-Ammon , so famous for the voyage which Alexander the Great wanted to make there, and collected all the scientific materials that it was possible for him to collect.
He was returning from this trip in March 1820, when he heard of the expedition which the Pasha of Egypt was preparing to send to Upper Nubia. under the guidance of his son, lsmaïl-bey. He solicited from Mohammed Ali the favor of accompanying the young general, and it was granted him. He visited Meroe and arrived at almost 10 degrees north latitude.
The results and observations of his journey in the oases were published by Jomard under this title Voyage to the oasis of Syouah (in-fol, with boards). Cailliaud himself published his Voyage to Meroe, to the White River, beyond Fazogl, in the south of the kingdom of Sennar, at Syouah and in the five other oases, made in the years 1819, 1820, 1821 and 1822 (1826- 1827, 4 vols in-8, with maps and boards in-fol.). Although he was not an Egyptologist by profession, because the discovery of Champollion was not yet done, Cailliaud copied a crowd of inscriptions, brought back monuments of all kinds, among others a mummy covered with hieroglyphic inscriptions with Greek translation, which served much to Champollion's studies.
He published the results of his observations under the title Research on the arts and crafts, the uses of civil and domestic life of the ancient Egyptians (1823, in-fol.); then he developed the same work, dedicated it to the king and published it under this new title: Research on the arts and crafts, the customs of civil and domestic life of the ancient peoples of Egypt , from Nubia and Ethiopia followed by details of the mores and customs of the modern peoples of the same countries (1837, in-4, with colored boards).
Cailliaud retired to his native city, lived there peacefully in the functions of curator of the museum, and died there on the date indicated above. His name was attached to several ostraca , deposited in the Louvre and some of which contain interesting texts. (E. Amelineau).