Louis Félicien de Saulcy

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This article is about the French numismatist, Orientalist, and archaeologist. For the French entomologist, see Félicien Henry Caignart de Saulcy.
Louis Félicien Joseph Caignart de Saulcy

Louis Félicien Joseph Caignart de Saulcy (1807–1880), better known as simply Félicien or Félix de Saulcy, was a French numismatist, Orientalist, and archaeologist.

Sarcophagus of Helena of Adiabene

Louis Felicien de Saulcy was born in Lille, France, the scion of a noble family. He traveled though Syria and Palestine in 1850–51, 1863, and 1869. On his first trip to Palestine in 1850, searching for something of interest "in a place fraught with danger", he toured the Dead Sea area, misidentified Sodom and Gomorrah, and sketched the first map of Masada.[1] He discovered the Shihan Stele[2] and identified Tell es-Sultan as the site of the ancient city of Jericho.

Shihan stele, in the Louvre

De Saucy conducted the first archaeological dig in the Holy Land in 1863.[3] He excavated the Tombs of the Kings in Jerusalem, mistakenly identifying them as the Tombs of the House of David.[4] He discovered the sarcophagus of Queen Helena of Adiabene, although he believed the bones inside, wrapped in shrouds with golden embroidery, were the remains of the wife of a king of Judea from the First Temple period, possibly Zedekiah or Jehoash. De Saulcy was forced to suspend the dig when the news that human bones were being dug up drew the ire of the Jewish community of Jerusalem. The sarcophagus and other findings were sent to France and displayed at the Louvre.[5]

De Saulcy's archaeological work is now considered amateurish, but he is recognized as an important numismatist. He was the first to catalogue the coins of Palestine and amassed a large coin collection.[6]

Published works[edit]

See also[edit]



  • Rosenberg, Stephen, "Felicien de Saulcy and the Rediscovery of Tyros in Jordan," Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 138,1 (2006), 35-41.