The Institut français d’archéologie orientale in Cairo was created in 1880 and took its current name in 1898. Since 1907 it has occupied the Mounira Palace in central Cairo.
Within the network of Écoles françaises à l’étranger, the IFAO focuses on the study of successive cultures in Egypt from prehistoric to contemporary times. The main disciplines involved are archaeology, history and philology. The IFAO projects, numbering around thirty, cover all periods (Prehistory, Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, contemporary Egypt) and all the natural environments that make up the Egyptian territory (Nile valley, Delta, oasis, eastern and western deserts, Sinai, Red Sea).
The scientific programme encourages interdisciplinary studies according to themes, specified in the five-year project. The IFAO promotes in particular the scientific editing of sources, the contextualization of archaeological discoveries, the development of digital humanities and archaeometry, and welcomes initiatives designed to extend the scope of our knowledge; these programmes are developed with a large number of French, Egyptian and international partners.
A diverse team (140 Egyptian and French employees) ensures the running of these activities. IFAO hosts six scientific members, one or two foreign scientific members, three scientific collaborators and three Egyptian researchers, around twenty doctoral and post-doctoral fellows. About two hundred researchers attend the institute each year.
Different services support these research activities:
- the library, with more than 90,000 volumes, specializing in the fields of Egyptology, papyrology, classical, Byzantine, Coptic and Arab studies;
- the archives and collections, which keep the scientific, graphic and photographic archives of the Institute's sites dating from 1971, and some older archives; collections of papyri, ostraca and other materials as well as objects from shared excavations; a map library of more than 3000 maps;
- the archaeometry centre bringing together conservation-restoration, material analysis and 14C dating laboratories;
- ceramology, photography and drawing, topography, and computer laboratories.
The institute is also a publishing house, with a printing house and a distribution service. Each year it publishes four scientific journals and around fifteen monographs in French, English, German and Arabic.