Christiane Desroches Noblecourt, a pioneering Egyptologist who prodded Gen. Gamal Abdel Nasser to help salvage Nubia’s vaunted antiquities, died June 23. She was 97.
Dr. Desroches Noblecourt died at a hospital in Epernay, east of Paris, where she had been taken after a recent stroke.
Born Nov. 17, 1913, in Paris, she developed an early passion for Egypt after reading about the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the early 1920s. She later studied at the Louvre and the Sorbonne.
After an initial trip to Egypt in the late 1930s, she became the first woman to be put on a stipend with the Cairo-based French Institute of Oriental Archaeology — cracking the male-dominated world of Egyptology.
In a statement, French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to Dr. Desroches Noblecourt as the “grande dame of the Nile,” who blended scientific rigor with the qualities of “the most passionate of educators.”
After Egyptian officials began planning the Aswan High Dam project on the Nile in 1954, Dr. Desroches Noblecourt met Nasser to air concerns that 32 ancient temples and chapels in southern Nubia were facing submersion.
In an interview with Le Monde newspaper in 2007, she recalled how she told him “let me handle it, I’ll go talk to UNESCO on your behalf.”
“He trusted me and let me do it,” she said. “He was brilliant.”
UNESCO then helped mobilize nearly 50 countries for a vast project in the 1960s to dismantle, move and reconstruct the antiquities — including massive statues of Pharaoh Ramses II at Abu Simbel, which were broken down into 1,000 pieces and rebuilt over four years.
Dr. Desroches Noblecourt helped organize a Louvre exhibit in 1967 about King Tut’s treasure that drew more than 1 million visitors.
Desroches Noblecourt wrote dozens of books, including “The Fabulous Heritage of Egypt,” a bestseller in France in 2004 and 2005.
Survivors include a son.