Beit Emery: A short historical account.

One of the dig houses that might already be gone when this article is published is the “English House”, or Beit Emery, as it used to be called, although most of the young inhabitants of Saqqara won’t know that name, since Walter Brian Emery died in 1971. Today, most People know the house by the name “English House”.

Beit Emery: Courtyard of the Saqqara dig house. Copyright: Peter Jan Bomhoff (permission to use is still pending)

Courtyard of the Saqqara dig house. Copyright: Peter Jan Bomhoff
(permission to use is still pending)

  • Original name: Emery House (Beit Emery)
  • Currently commonly known as: English House
  • Location: Saqqara
  • Coordinates:
    • Latitude: 29°52’42.67″N
    • Longitude: 31°13’22.13″E
  • Build: Somewhere between 1920 and 1930
  • Architect: Jean Philippe Lauer
  • Original Owner: Service des Antiquités
  • Current owner: The Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA)
  • Last occupant: Saqqara Expedition from the Leiden Museum, RMO. (Until 2009. Starting the excavation season 2010, they will move to a new house)
  • Information: Courtesy Dr. Maarten Raven (RMO Curator)
  • Latest change / addition to this article (text in Blue): 3 February 2014

Originally, the house was built for Cecil Mallaby Firth (1878-1931) and James Edward Quibell (1867 – 1935), who lived there during most of the year. At that time, the Antiquities Service was still run by British. Walter Bryan Emery was the assistant to Firth, even before WWI. Emery returned after the war. He lived there for 5 or 6 months per year in the 1950’s and 1960’s, which is the reason that the house is known by his name.

Many outstanding Egyptologists have lived and worked here over the years, such as Cecil Mallaby Firth and Walter Brian Emery.

Beit Emery has always been property of the Egyptian government, at times it was also in use by the SCA, but has foremost been in use by the E.E.S after the revolution in 1952. During the time, the E.E.S. worked together with the R.M.O, they shared the house. The Leiden mission continued to live there, after their cooperation with the E.E.S. had ended.

The house has been built on top of an Archaic mastaba, just to the north of the SCA’s office building in Saqqara, along the eastern border of the desert. The mastaba has at one time already been excavated, but in the direct proximity of the house, excavation is still going on today.

Beit Emery consists of a courtyard, around which three wings have been build; The West wing has two rooms and a storage room, The north wing has three rooms and in the east wing, the rest of the rooms have been build: A kitchen, pantry, dining room, living room and a bathroom. Alongside this part of the house, the garden, another bathroom, annex toilet, and a former garage are situated.

Peter Jan Bomhoff from the Leiden University mission inside his room at the Saqqara dig house. Copyright: Peter Jan Bomhoff (permission to use is still pending)

Beit Emery: Peter Jan Bomhoff from the Leiden University mission inside his room at the Saqqara dig house.
Copyright: Peter Jan Bomhoff
(permission to use is still pending)

The house offers sleeping accommodation for twelve people, provided that they share rooms. All rooms are also in use as working rooms or study. Three rooms as well as the large storage room have been annexed by the SCA, so they are not in use by the Leiden mission.

It has been built out of bricks and limestone. No historical materials heave been used, although it cannot be ruled out, that parts of the limestone, used for building the house, have been in use for pharaonic monuments, which afterwards were cut into smaller blocks.

It has been added to many times, over the years. Specifically, the south-east corner (former loggia) and the north-east corner (two extra rooms) have been enlarged.

In it’s current state, Beit Emery is in desperate need of repair. Obviously, the Leiden Team did not invest in this over the past few years, first of all, because they did not have the funding’s to do repairs and/or enhancements and, obviously, because they already knew that “their” home would disappear in the near future. Nevertheless, The disappearance of the house will leave yet another void in the history of Egyptology.

Although the house has been in need of repairs for a long time, both the EES as well as the Leiden team always felt at home. Some of them have spend a considerable part of their life there.

Note:

Beit Emery was, after it had been abandoned in 2011, to be demolished. For now, it’s still there, awaiting a new destiny (There are rumours it is to become a small (Photo?)museum)so it looks like its demolition is on hold.


Status of Research: Ongoing
Status of article: Open

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