The influence of French archaeology dates from the end of the nineteenth century, when France established archaeological and cultural missions in the Middle East, Asia, and other areas. Today, archaeologists from the Institut de France, the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research), and major French cultural and research institutions (the Louvre, the National Museum of Natural History, and the universities) participate in more than 150 French-led excavation projects abroad supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2001 the mission in Chad led by Michel Brunet of the University of Poitiers discovered the scull of a seven-million-year-old hominid. In France, numerous archaeological sites of global renown, such as the caves of Lascaux and the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc grotto, remain the subject of intense study.
The establishment of archaeology as a scientific discipline is often associated with Flavio Biondo and his fifteenth-century work on the ruins of ancient Rome (De Roma instaurata, 1444-1446). In France, modern archaeology is associated with Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832), who deciphered the hieroglyphics and is considered the founder of Egyptology. Champollion established the chair in ancient Egyptian studies at the Collège de France in 1831. The archaeology of historical periods was born in the Renaissance, along with philology and art history. Under the influence of André Leroi-Gourhan (1911-1986), prehistory branched off from the study of sediments to focus more on human civilizations. The archaeology of other periods evolved more slowly to include the study of techniques and civilizations. The twentieth century also saw the creation in France of institutions dedicated to archaeology, leading up to the merger in 2009 of the offices of archaeology, ethnology, and general resources of the Ministry of Culture and Communication. More...