The 1909–10 EEF season at Abydos

Preparing for an Excavation: the 1909–10 EEF season at Abydos

Following Article was written by Patricia Spencer (The Egypt Exploration Society) and, among other subjects, also recalls the dig houses at Abydos. The article was originally published in “A GOOD SCRIBE AND AN EXCEEDINGLY WISE MAN. Studies in Honour of W. J. Tait”, (London: Golden House Publications, 2014)


In his autobiography, Petrie (1931: 176) says at the end of the description of his work on the Royal Tombs at Abydos:

Later, Legge persuaded the Fund to try to discover more; large clearances were made, only producing a few scraps which had been widely scattered by destroyers; tombs were remeasured to search for errors in our plans, but the only difference found was in the length of a broken wall, probably knocked about since: the workmen were told that they must find another tomb, but there was none that answered nor regarded the appeal. As Sayce said to me: ‘If they had tried to give you a testimonial they could not have done better’.

Petrie’s biographer, Margaret Drower (1985: 285), adds:

Naville … had gone there (Umm el-Qaab) with the object, it would seem, of proving Petrie wrong … [and] asked for the Abydos concession; he opened up the tombs of the Umm el Qa’ab again, using a light railway to carry away debris which Petrie had already sifted through, and declared that pottery in the other cemeteries which Petrie had shown to be prehistoric, was in reality that of an African tribal population co-existing with the native Egyptians.

The season to which both comments refer was that of the winter of 1909–10 when an Egypt Exploration Fund (EEF) expedition excavated at Abydos, both at Umm el-Qaab and in cemetery E which Naville always called ‘the mixed cemetery’ because the tombs ranged in date from the Predynastic period to the New Kingdom (Naville 1910; 1914; EEF Report 1909–10).

This was by no means the most important season of EEF/EES work in Egypt, nor even the most significant at Abydos (for summaries see Kemp 1982, 2007; Kraemer 2011), but the EES Lucy Gura Archive contains letters, reports and Committee Minutes which reveal a great deal of detail about the problems of selecting the team and of arranging accommodation for the expedition. Professor Tait, with whom I had the privilege to work closely when he was Vice-Chair of the Society, was always supportive of archival research and I hope he might find interesting this short description of setting up an excavation season in Egypt in the early years of the twentieth century.

The Team

In 1908–9 the work at Abydos had been directed by Édouard Naville (EEF Report 1908–9) with Edward Ayrton and William Loat supervising excavation of the predynastic cemetery at nearby Mahasna (Ayrton and Loat 1911) together with Sixth Dynasty burials and the still unpublished Cemetery F at Abydos (now being studied by Kai Yamamoto of the University of Toronto; see also Rowland in Spencer 2007: 188–97).

Naville had reopened work at Umm el-Qaab, but this seems to have been limited in scale largely because, as Naville said in his report to the Committee, ‘[t]he work on the Royal Tombs … must be done with cars which M. Maspero promised to lend us next year’. Naville also seems to have spent a great deal of his time negotiating with John Garstang, then in his final season of work at Abydos, for the purchase by the Fund of Garstang’s dig-house – of which much more later.

For the 1909–10 season, the governing Committee of the Fund agreed, on 27 July 1909, that Naville would again direct the work, but the season was due to start in November and Naville and his wife were not able to arrive on site until late January 1910. The Fund therefore needed an experienced excavator to take charge of the expedition before the Navilles’ arrival, with Ayrton being the obvious man. Both Ayrton and Loat had received payment for their work in 1908–9 and Ayrton was keen to renegotiate his arrangement with the Fund before the 1909–10 season, both to obtain some guarantee of future employment and to define his own role in relationship to that of Naville as Director of the expedition.

In a letter of 25 July 1909 to one of the Fund’s Honorary Treasurers (Herbert Greuber of the British Museum) Ayrton said:

Should the E. E. Fund be so kind as to require my services again during the coming season, I think that it would be only right if they were to give me some guarantee of work for future years. I should like to have a signed agreement by which the Committee would bind themselves to employ me on their excavating staff for at least three years from Oct. 1 1909 (the date ending my present agreement). My present salary will satisfy me so long as I am Professor Naville’s assistant, but should an alteration of the excavating staff (owing to Professor Naville’s retirement) become necessary during the three years’ service, I should like the question to be reconsidered.

On 27 July the Committee agreed to his request, but on 21 September Ayrton wrote to the EEF General Secretary, Emily Paterson:

I am at present thinking of taking up a permanent appointment for which I have been recommended and it is therefore doubtful whether I shall take up a fresh contract. I hope to be quite certain within the week on this point and will at once let you know.

The permanent appointment to which Ayrton refers and which he did take up was with the Archaeological Survey of India; he was later transferred to Ceylon where he was accidentally drowned in 1914 (Hall 1915).

With the loss of Ayrton’s services less than two months before the season was due to start in November the Fund’s Committee, as shown by the Minutes of its meeting on 5 October 1909, began an urgent search for someone who would be experienced enough to act as Naville’s principal assistant and capable of directing the work before Naville’s own arrival on site. Greuber had already put out feelers before the Committee meeting, writing to Howard Carter on 25 September to ask if he would direct the Abydos work. Greuber also wrote to Arthur Weigall, then Chief Inspector of Antiquities in Luxor, to ask his advice. Weigall replied first, in a hand-written letter on notepaper of the Service des Antiquités:

‘Mr. Carter will doubtless have answered your letter to him, as he is at Medinet Habu where you addressed it. I am sorry you are in difficulties. There seem to be no young English men nowadays who are going in for Egyptology, except for Petrie’s lot, and they hardly count. I wonder you don’t try to get hold of some of the young Germans: they at least are well trained. But I suppose the Fund is really meant for English students. I do not know what Carter will reply, but I expect his terms will be pretty high, as the winter is his picture-selling season, for the loss of which you would have to compensate him.

I am very glad to hear that Ayrton has got a good job; but I should be sorry to hear that you had to give up excavation this season in consequence. I wish Hall could come out: he is such a thoroughly good all-round man. I should have thought that if you applied to Erman for one of his students, and then managed to get Hall to go out for a month to start him in at Abydos, you would have found it the most satisfactory arrangement. Erman has a man named Bourchart (or some similar spelling) who is very promising, I believe.

I am sorry that Abydos is not in my inspectorate. Otherwise I might have helped you at this end.’

The EES Archive also preserves Carter’s own response, written from his house at Medinet Habu on 7 October:

‘In reply to your letter dated 25th Sept: last. Re – your request whether I could carry on the excavations at Abydos on behalf of the E.E.F. – I regret I have to tell you that I could not possibly undertake such work, my professional work not permitting it. Furthermore the fees I should be obliged to ask would be too exorbitant and prohibit it.’

Greuber also wrote to Loat to ask if he would be able to work for the Fund again in 1909–10 but in his reply from Oxford, written on 27 September, Loat said that he was unable to, mainly due to personal reasons, but also because ‘for the present I have had quite enough of Egypt’.

On the morning of the Fund’s Committee meeting on 5 October, Greuber discussed the problem with George Francis Legge—the man whom Petrie held responsible for the re-excavation of the Royal Tombs. Legge (see Bierbrier (ed.) 2012: 319) was a barrister by profession who had a deep interest in classical studies, ancient Egypt, and Gnosticism. He had already been at Abydos in the 1908–9 season and had contributed financially towards the work as shown by a letter of Ayrton’s written from the site on 30 January 1908:

‘Mr Legge has written to Mr Hilton Price [Then the President of the EEF] offering £50 to the Fund for this season’s work. Will you please send this out as well.’

Legge became a member of the EEF Committee in November 1909 and was to be one of the team in the 1909–10 season at Abydos, writing, after his return to England, a long and informative report for the Fund’s Committee, selections from which will be quoted below.

Following their conversation on the morning of 5 October, Legge wrote to Greuber:

‘Since seeing you today, I have had the opportunity of thinking over the situation and of talking to one or two people who know something of Egypt. The result is to convince me that the gentleman whose name you suggested in your telegram to Dr Naville is not competent to take charge of the Fund’s excavations, and that to send him out to do so would be to invite a disaster which the Fund, to my thinking, would not long survive. In these circumstances, a suggestion occurs to me that you may care to consider:- Garstang, during the last part of his stay at Abydos, had as assistant a Mr Peet whom I do not know personally, but who is well spoken of by my friends. In a report to the Liverpool Excavation committee (on which I was), Garstang said that he considered Peet was now competent to take sole charge of his work at Abydos, and he suggested that if it were decided to dig there another season, he should be asked to do so, which would set Garstang free to go to Asia Minor. I think it possible that Garstang might be persuaded to lend Peet to the Fund, and that it is even possible that he himself might take Abydos and the work started on the way to the Sudan, where he is digging this year, Asia Minor being now unsafe for Europeans. If Garstang were not willing to help so far, I think Peet and Dickson might still manage to get the railway up before Xmas, when I would make it my business to go to Abydos myself and try to keep things going until Naville’s arrival. If the Committee of the Fund adjourn the matter today as suggested, I would also be willing to go to Liverpool at once and see Peet and Garstang.

After leaving you today, I found that Budge was out of town for a week, and I therefore saw Dr [Frederic George] Kenyon (Director of the British Museum, 1909–30 ). I quite understand (and sympathise with) his point of view, but Hall’s appointment would be so much better for the Fund—and in the long term for the B. M. also—than even the arrangement I suggest, that it seems to me worth making another effort to get the Trustees to agree to it. I will therefore talk to Budge about it when he comes back.

I write this rather than inflict daily visits on you, but I am quite willing to come round to the Museum or attend your Committee if you think it will do any good. In that case, I should know here before 12.

The points in favour of Peet are:

  • He knows the site
  • Can speak Arabic and manage men
  • Understands cataloguing and packing.

Unfortunately the telegram from Greuber to Naville about the person whom Legge assessed as an ‘incompetent gentleman’ is not preserved in the EES Archive and his identity is uncertain. It is possible that Howard Carter, who was clearly under consideration, was the ‘gentleman’ in question, but by 1909 Carter had considerable excavation experience, both with the Fund and at Thebes with Theodore Davis and to describe him as ‘incompetent’ would seem unfair. Another possibility is that the ‘incompetent gentleman’ was Aylward Blackman (who was to become the Surveyor of the EEF’s [epigraphic] Archaeological Survey of Egypt in 1911), who seems also to have been in the running for the post as shown by a letter, written on 7 October to Grueber, from his fellow EEF Committee member, David Hogarth of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, who had been present at the 5 October Committee meeting:

‘Re Peet. I have talked to Garstang, who presses him hard as the best available man at present. He says he is a very hard worker, very good at colloquial Arabic & experienced with men. The one drawback is in his weak physique. That Peet can write well & has archaeological training & method I can vouch myself. Garstang says that he knows the site at Abydos well & could easily take up the direction at once. All this without prejudice to Blackman, of course. Garstang will write to you.’

The following day (8 October), Garstang himself sent a letter to Greuber typed on Liverpool University notepaper:

‘It gives me great pleasure to write to you at Mr Hogarth’s request about Mr T.E. Peet, who has worked with me during the greater part of a season’s excavations in Egypt, and whom I have seen and had relations with from time to time in other connections. To my mind he is one of the most promising students of Archaeology which this country has turned out. He is keen, energetic, scholarly, and methodical. He has followed my work at Abydos sufficiently closely to have gained a considerable knowledge of method in excavation, which though only our own method, would nevertheless be of special use to him if applied to the same site in the future. His knowledge of pottery, which is the basis of archaeological interpretation, is remarkable, and he brought to his study of Egyptian types an intimate and farseeing acquaintance with fabrics of the Aegean and south eastern Europe.

He has also made sufficient progress, by his diligent application, in a knowledge of general Egyptian Archaeology to render him entirely competent in my opinion to direct the practical side of excavations on a considerable scale. I may add that he shared the control of a gang of workmen for about a month and the discipline under him was well maintained. There is no young man to whom I would more gladly give my heartiest recommendation and good wishes. If I can be of any assistance to him also in case he should be elected to continue the work at Abydos, I shall be happy to do so from my knowledge of the locality and its requirements. He is himself aware of the several unfinished promising spots and I might be able to, if required, to hand over to him a gang of 30 trained workmen whom I shall not require during the coming season.’

With these ringing endorsements of Peet’s capabilities and character, the Fund lost no time in securing his services. Greuber must have written to him almost immediately offering him the post as Peet replied on 16 October from Rome where he was studying at the British School, accepting the Fund’s offer of employment for the forthcoming season but, like Ayrton before him, he wanted the assurance of a longer term of engagement:

‘Would the Committee be inclined to offer the post for a period of say three years, subject of course to the work being satisfactorily done? Otherwise I might find myself stranded next year after giving up a more or less permanent post under Prof. Newberry.’

Greuber replied on British Museum notepaper on 20 October sending Peet the same three-year agreement as Ayrton, asking when Peet would be ready to go to Egypt and if he would first like to return to England. On 23 October Peet replied from the British School at Rome, accepting the agreement and its terms and indicating that he had no need to return to England before leaving for Egypt, which he would be ready to do ‘any time after the middle of November’.

Greuber then appears to have changed his mind and asked Peet to visit England before going to Egypt, as on 28 October, Peet wrote from Rome:

‘Many thanks for your letter. I left England just a fortnight ago to see a specialist in Rome about malaria fever which I got in Greece & had during the four months I remained in England. He has succeeded in stopping the fever & I am just beginning to get fit again. You will well imagine that I hardly feel up to the double journey across Europe & have a perfect horror of the rains of England. So that you will see I should be most grateful if your committee could see their way to let me proceed direct to Egypt.

I am under arrangement with the British School Director, Dr Ashby, to spend a fortnight in Malta from Nov. 8th on, in connection with the excavations we carried out there last May. I have therefore booked my passage by boat from Naples to Malta for next Saturday, 6th, hoping to get some benefit from the sea voyage. It would be very inconvenient if I had to put this work off as on it depends the possibility of getting the publications out this year.

Of course I realise the importance of hearing Dr Naville’s plans by word of mouth. If he is to be in Cairo for the beginning of the excavation I suppose I could see him there. I have now written to him in Switzerland to ask what he thinks about it & whether I could go up to Geneva to see him there if necessary. It is a much shorter journey, & would avoid the English climate. He is to telegraph me on receipt. So if he is at home I should know his opinion on Saturday.

Meanwhile perhaps you will be kind enough to put my case before your committee. If they think it is absolutely necessary that I should come a telegraph will bring me. But you can guess that after 4 months illness I don’t want to take unnecessary risks just when I’m safely out of it.’

Peet followed this two days later (30 October) with a postcard to Greuber in which he said ‘I am holding myself in readiness to go either to Geneva or London if necessary’. The EES records do not show if Peet and Naville managed to meet in Geneva but Peet arrived at Abydos in late November accompanied by his brother, Walter Dudley Peet, and James Dixon.

Francis Legge joined the team at Abydos on 19 December 1909 and H R Hall, of the British Museum, on 6th January 1910, before M. and Mme. Naville finally arrived on 20th or 21st January. During the season there were also several ‘visitors’ to the excavation who participated in the work. In addition to Peet’s brother, there was the Hon. Robert Trefusis, a man named Hawley who was a friend of Legge’s and someone named Fletcher – possibly George Henry Benton Fletcher.

Towards the end of his stay at Abydos, Hall wrote to Greuber (letter dated 27 January 1910) and summarised his views of the skills and personalities of his fellow team members. His first comments are about Naville and reflect the concern which the Fund’s Committee already had about Naville’s competence to excavate anything smaller than a temple and which had first led them (see Davies 1982) to send Hall to join Naville’s excavation at Deir el-Bahari.

‘Naville has taken to the prehistoric graves very much, and the excavation is by no means one of Deir el-Bahari order, but will interest the anthropologists and the prehistoric people, as well as the for a change.

Peet is a very good man as a digger, and no doubt a good fellow enough when you come to know him, but you have to do so first. I get on very well with him. At first I think he regarded me as mildly nefarious & didn’t much like my appearing (? reading uncertain ); but in a day or two he realized that I intended to be friendly and that (something omitted ) he didn’t understand Naville’s way of working, and then we lived happily ever after. He is rather an odd man: shy and not over well mannered, but means nothing by this. I think he fully intends to get on well with Naville, and in him the Fund have a first-rate successor to Ayrton.

Dixon too is a very good man: a careful observer and a good planner and draughtsman, as well as [a] very nice fellow, with manners which Peet lacks. So it seems to me you have a most excellent staff, and thanks to you I have made two excellent friends.’

James Dixon’s work was rewarded by the Fund with a salary increase (to £150) for the 1910–11 season. Dixon went on to work in Sudan and at Thebes before being commissioned in 1914 into the 6th Battalion, the Border Regiment. He was killed, aged only 24, in Suvla Bay, Gallipoli on 9 August 1915 (Bierbrier 2012: 155).

Finding a new director for the work at short notice had not been the only problem taxing the Fund’s Committee members. There had also been the question of finding sufficient accommodation for the team.

The Abydos dig-houses

At its meeting on 7 July 1908, the EEF Committee had approved the funding for the 1908–9 season to include the building of a house which Naville estimated would cost around £62. From the start, however, this house seems to have been inadequate for the Fund’s needs (one wonders why they hadn’t built a bigger one!) and, as noted above, during the 1908–9 season Naville had devoted much time and energy to negotiations with Garstang for the purchase of the house he had built at Abydos in 1907 and which he expected no longer to need as he intended his next excavation to be outside Egypt. Naville wrote from Abydos to Greuber on 10 March 1909:

‘You see G[arstang] is quite at liberty to destroy his house; and therefore he considers it as his property. He says he paid it out of his own pocket, and he will not lose too much on it. I made him an offer for the woodwork only; he absolutely refused to deal with the wood separately…. G said to me repeatedly that he would not give anything not even a brick, rather would he destroy the house; when I objected to him that it would be mere waste, and that it did not agree with what he had said of his wish to recoup himself, he answered that he would have the pleasure.’

Garstang had set out his terms to Naville, on notepaper stamped ‘CAMP AT ABYDOS, BALLIANA, UPPER EGYPT’, dated 9 March 1909:

In reply to your enquiry about our house, the audited value of the same with the heavy furniture & fittings is £109.11.8. It is my personal property, & I have permission to sell it on condition that whoever buys it shall agree to the conditions under which I built it, namely that on quitting finally it reverts to the Service of Antiquities or shall be destroyed. If the Egypt Exploration Fund cares to buy it as it stands with the furniture etc for £75 (seventy five pounds) I am agreeable to selling it, & at the same time to resign my present concession here in favour of the Fund. I cannot afford to take a lower price, but I may add that in addition to the cupboards, beds, chairs, ovens, lamps, crockery etc there are numerous smaller useful objects not reckoned in the estimate which I should hand over as included in the bargain.

Any intervening correspondence is not preserved in the EES Archive but there is a tinge of exasperation in a letter Garstang wrote, from the University of Liverpool, to Greuber two months later, on 10 May 1909:

‘Thank you for your letter of the 6th May. I really do not know where I am in these negotiations, but as M. Naville referred me to you. You are right in supposing that should the Fund arrange to buy my house, I should resign my concession at Abydos – my reason being that I have work which attracts me more elsewhere. Perhaps your Committee will consider my last letter the question at their next opportunity. I shall be glad to add any details required.’

There must then have been further negotiations during which the price of the house was reduced, as on 8 June 1909 the Fund’s Committee ‘resolved to accept the offer of Mr. Garstang to purchase his house, fittings etc at Abydos for the sum of £50 and the payment of guards from June 1, on the understanding that Mr. Garstang will abandon his concession at Abydos’.

Garstang’s next surviving letter, of 20th September 1909 and also written from the University of Liverpool, is tantalisingly incomplete as it has been torn in half vertically to use as a wrapper for correspondence, with ‘ABYDOS 1908–9’ written on the back but it seems to refer to the guards of his house failing in their duties. Fortunately, all is explained, however, by a sentence towards the start of Legge’s end-of-season report:

‘I arrived at Abydos on the 19th December, and found Mr. Peet, his brother, and Mr Dixon living in Prof. Garstang’s house. They told me that they had found it in a very bad state, the guards left to look after it having lived inside it instead of outside, that most of the beds and furniture in it was broken, and that to make it habitable they had been obliged to clear out the house built by Mr. Ayrton for the Fund.’

A letter of 13 November 1909, from Ayrton (in Oxford) to Emily Paterson, describes the contents and condition of the Fund’s house:

‘Mr Peet will find at the house—two guards, one of whom was our servant last year and is quite a good cook (Tiya Bischawi). M. Lefebvre at Assiut will be able to tell him when the guards were last paid and what is owing to them. He will find in the house a complete set of knives, forks, plates and everything for the kitchen. Chairs, tables and beds there are also plenty of, with bedding (blankets, sheets, etc). The keys of the storerooms are hung up under the shelf in the record room on the left on entering the house. He need not take out anything with him for the first few weeks. Everything except food is there.

In the end room on the left are three half plate cameras. Two are in cases. These belong to Mr Loat and myself. The other belongs to the Fund. There is also a 5 x 4 camera (Bull’s eye Kodak) there belonging to the Fund. There are also about five dozen 5 x 4 negatives unused.

Mr Murray has the numbers of plates which I took out with me last year and I think that if Mr Dixon took out about nearly the same amount it would be sufficient. It would probably be easier if they were sent out by Mr Murray as last year, but perhaps they would be delayed en route.’

On arrival at Abydos, then, Peet, his brother and James Dixon moved into Garstang’s house but had to plunder the Fund’s house for furniture, utensils, etc to make it habitable. When Legge arrived on 19 December he realised that Garstang’s house alone would be inadequate for the number of people expected:

‘On going to the Fund’s house, I found it empty except for the tables and a few chairs, all the shelves having been used for packing cases, while the only beds and bedding available were those belonging to M. Naville and myself, which we had left there the year before. Moreover, all the rooms in Prof. Garstang’s house were occupied with one exception; and, as there was no accommodation for M. and Mme. Naville and Mr. Hall, without taking into account the guests who were expected, I determined to refurbish the Fund’s house and to move there. Prof. Randall MacIver came to Abydos on 23rd December; and after going over to the Royal Tombs with him, I went with him to Luxor on the same day. I stayed there buying stores, kitchen utensils, and other supplies until the 29th December when I returned to Abydos and took up my quarters in the Fund’s house. A sum of £13 odd which I had spent on bedding, table-linen, crockery, cutlery and the like was afterwards repaid to me by Mr. Peet on the orders of M. Naville; but I paid the servants’ wages and other household expenses from the 29th December until I left on the 11th February, charging those who stayed with me – as is usual in Egypt – a small sum per day. In this way I received contributions from Mr. Trefusis, Mr Hawley (a friend of my own), Mr. Hall and M. and Mme. Naville, which are entered in the book I kept for that purpose and handed over to M. Naville on leaving.’

Legge’s reference to ‘charging those who stayed with me—as is usual in Egypt—a small sum per day’ is an interesting reflection on excavation-organisation and funding at the time, since he charged not only visitors such as Trefusis and Hawley but also Hall and even the Navilles—the expedition Director and his wife.

Legge’s report to the Committee of the Fund ends with a description of the accommodation at the site and recommendations for future seasons:

‘Finally as to the houses and plant. Prof. Garstang’s house is substantially built, and wants, so far as I can see, no external repairs except a coat of whitewash, new wire netting in the verandah, and glass in the windows. But it gives extremely little accommodation and has no lockfast magazine, the room in it now used for storing the antiquities being both very dark and without doors of any kind. All the floors, with the exception of the bedroom and dressing–room formerly used by Prof. Garstang and Mrs. Garstang, are of loose sand, which makes it impossible to keep the house even moderately free from dust. I should therefore suggest that mud floors be laid down in the two bedrooms, dressing-rooms and passage which surround the sitting-room, and that what was formerly Prof. Garstang’s bedroom, which has a fair light and a boarded floor, should be turned into a store-room and fitted with a door. This would leave what was formerly his dressing-room and a boarded bedroom in the roof available for guest-rooms when required.

The Fund’s house is much more conveniently arranged, having two lockfast store-rooms, both of them fairly lighted. Even without further addition, it gives ample bedroom accommodation for M. and Mme. Naville and 3 others, but it is not very substantially built, and the roof-beams cracked badly in two places during my occupation this year and had to be repaired in rather a make-shift manner. All the woodwork, moreover, has shrunk badly during the hot summer and requires overhauling, as do the doors. To put these matters right should be the first care of the expedition next year.

The Fund is also very badly off for tents, those belonging to it not having been renewed, I understand, since their purchase nearly 30 years ago. On taking over the Fund’s house, I found all the tents piled up in the passage, and the lower ones infested with white ants. Knowing that if these animals got a lodgment in the house, it would have to be abandoned, I had the tents attacked by them buried in the desert at some distance away. It turned out afterwards that most of those that were left were not the property of the Fund, one used by Mr. Peet for his cook belonged to Major Griffith, while, of the others, three were the property of Mr. J.T. Dennis. Of these last one was set up on the Royal Tombs as a shelter for M. Naville, and was stolen during the night; but the other two are, so far as I know, in good condition, and should, I think, either be returned to Mr. Dennis (who has claimed them) or purchased from him. Only one small tent would in the former case remain to the Fund and this, even with that belonging to Major Griffith, would be quite insufficient if an expedition to a site like Mahasna or Ulad el Yechia had to be undertaken. All the photographic plant, moreover, has suffered much from being left in Egypt during the hot season, and should be brought back to England to be overhauled. Instructions for an inventory of the Fund’s property left in Egypt and for the locking up of everything portable in the store-room before leaving might also, I think, be profitably sent at once to Mr. Peet.’

From Legge’s report, it sounds as if Peet, his brother and James Dixon (and also Fletcher?) continued to live in Garstang’s house while the Navilles, Legge himself, Hall and the ‘guests’ Trefusis and Hawley lived in the Fund’s house.

The physical separation of the team into the two houses, which was originally done for practical reasons came also, over the coming years, to reflect the very different archaeological approaches of Naville and Peet. Of the latter, Barry Kemp remarks (1982: 78) that ‘his more objective approach to archaeology had brought him into conflict with his co-director at Abydos, E. Naville, who had a picturesque alternative explanation to offer for the finds, which Peet, along with many others, accepted as prehistoric’.

Kemp also quotes from Alan Gardiner’s 1934 obituary of Peet, in which he remarked that Naville and Peet ‘lived at Abydos in separate dig houses, parted by a low hill’. It is perhaps appropriate that the Fund’s house, used by Naville with his already outmoded archaeological practices, was short-lived, while the Garstang house continued to be used by EEF/EES expeditions until the 1930s. Its abandoned shell was only demolished in 1967, when it was replaced by the house built for the current Pennsylvania-Yale-Institute of Fine Arts expedition (Kemp 1982: 86; Picardo 2007; Kraemer 2011: 6).

In view of the comment by Petrie quoted at the beginning of this article, it should be noted that Hall’s end-of-season Report to the Fund’s Committee included a succinct but telling summary of the work at Umm el-Qaab:

‘The portion of the site which M. Naville had attacked last year and through which the trench had been dug in continuation of his plan had not been excavated either by M. Amelineau or Prof. Petrie, and it had been hoped that the trench would reveal a new royal tomb. No trace of one was found.’


Letters and other documents quoted are all in the Egypt Exploration Society’s Lucy Gura Archive.

  • AYRTON E. and W. LOAT 1911. The Predynastic Cemetery at El-Mahasna.London: Egypt Exploration Fund.
  • BIERBRIER, M.L. (ed.) 2012. Who Was Who in Egyptology, 4th edition.London: Egypt Exploration Society.
  • DAVIES, W.V. 1982. ‘Thebes.’ In Excavating in Egypt: the Egypt Exploration Society, 1882– 1982, edited by T.G.H. James, 51–70.London: British Museum Publications.
  • DROWER, M.S. 1985. Flinders Petrie: a Life in Archaeology.London: Victor Gollancz.
  • EGYPT EXPLORATION FUND. Report of the Twenty-Third Ordinary General Meeting 1908–09 held on 12 November 1909.— Report of the Twenty-Fourth Ordinary General Meeting 1909–10 held on 8 November 1910.
  • GARDINER, A.H. 1934. ‘Thomas Eric Peet.’ JEA 20: 66–70.
  • HALL, H.R. 1915. ‘Edward Ayrton.’ JEA 2: 20–23.
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My eternal thanks to:

  • Patricia Spencer, for letting me reproduce this article on our website,
  • Carl Graves and the Egypt Exploration Society, for letting me use the photos,
  • Aidan Dodson, for pointing out the existence of the Article.