Thursday, 21 March 2013

Dig Houses - Mummification Museum Lecture

Marcel very kindly gave me the notes from the lecture so I did not have to scribble away. If you want to see the pictures go to his website

Who are we?

•Marcel Maessen 50, manager Sales admin Volvo Trucks dealership Netherlands, Egypt
fan since 1998, websites to project 2009
•Monica Maessen, 49, Controller at company for solutions petro and food
•El Konsol, 37?, Schoolteacher, driver and MSA contact
•Abla, 22, Teacher architecture, Architect

A home away from home
Insinger House
Although most of the dighouses can be found on the west bank, there have been
and, in some cases still are, some houses worth mentioning on the East Bank of
Luxor, the oldest one being the Insinger House. (not Egyptologist, but important
nevertheless because of Insinger Papyrus) Long gone and hardly documented
throughout its history. Only a few images remain for us to see.
Chicago House
Going towards the Karnak Temple Complex, you drive past Chicago House; the
second house, inhabited by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Or
is it the third? As photographs on the OI website state that there has also been a
dighouse inside Medinet Habu, and, of course, the first Chicago .

Legrain’s House
Directly at the current entrance, there used to be the house of George Legrain,
demolished in 2006

New French house
Centre franco-egyptien d'etude des temples de Karnak Old village.

New French house
Centre franco-egyptien d'etude des temples de Karnak new village

Canadian House
Also at the Karnak Temple complex, there’s a dighouse, inhabited by the
Canadian team of Egyptologists.
Unless we have missed one, that about sums it up for the East Bank. Let’s take a
walk along the west bank and show you (most of the houses) the dighouses.
Most of which we still have to research

Carter House I
Hidden behind the offices of the SCA, you can find the first house, Howard Carter
used to live in, when he was the director of antiquities in Luxor. Recently rebuild
by ARCE, it’s is now in use as a training facility for SCA inspectors as well as the
domicile for some of them.

Chicago House I (?)
According to the OI website, this used to be one of the houses in use as a
dighouse for their archaeologists. It was located right on the premises of Medinet

French House 3
Right next to Malqata, you can find the dighouse of the “Centre national de la
recherche scientifique“. A large complex of rooms, currently inhabited by Dr.
Christian Leblanc and his team.
French House 4
Driving back towards Qurna, you take a left towards Deir el-Medina, where you
can find yet another IFAO dighouse, right on top of the mountain. The house is
currently in use by the team of Cedric Gobeil .
Originally started out as a small house for Ernesto Schiaparelli. After Bernard

Chicago House II (?)
When you take a right at the crossing near Carter House I, the first location we
find, is that of the first Chicago House, Some say Marsam. Built by Callender 1926
expanded several time 80 rooms.

Italian House
Inside the perimeters of the Marsam Hotel, there’s another structure, specifically
built for the Italian mission in the 1970’s

German House
Just down the road, you can find the German House. Actually the third house to
be built in the exact same spot. The first one (this one) inaugurated in 1906 and
torn down in 1915 by the British,

the second one from 1927 until this one too was torn down in 1983

and, of course the current house.

Gardner Wilkinson House
Just a bit further down the road, when you look up the mountain you can see the
remains of, most likely, the oldest dighouse in all of Egypt: The remains of the
tower near the tombs where John Gardner Wilkinson used to live. Before it’s
completely gone, I sure would like to do a bit of investigation there!

Garis Davies House
Even further down the road and looking to the left, one can already catch a
glimpse of the house, at one time inhabited by Norman and Nina de Garis
Davies; the so-called Davies House, but on foot, and following the road, it’s still
quite a long way to go _. One has to go past one other, rather famous house, to
reach it, but I will save that house for last. For now, Let’s continue a bit further
towards the Valley of the Kings, where, just before we take a left to enter the
long road to the Valley, we can find

Castle Carter II
The House where Howard Carte use to live, when he made his great discovery in
1922. Although the house has been altered quite extensively since the days Of
Carter and it has been turned into a small museum, the house sits on an
attractive place (nowadays; it used to be on a “mount of flies”) and still breathes
some of the atmosphere that it, no doubt, had, when it was still inhabited.

Waseda House
Just behind Carter House, one can see the Japanese House and, I guess, it’s
probably the least well-known dighouse of them all, in the Luxor area. Only
yesterday, we did our first photographical survey there.

Stoppelaëre House
Just up the mountain from Carter house, one can see the charming Stoppelaere
House. Not an actual dighouse as such, but still at one time, it has been in use by
someone, related to the search and restoration of Ancient Antiquities. Namely by
the Antiquities Service restorer of the time: Alexandre Stoppelaere, about whom
(and his house), a more complete article is in the making.

Davis House
After you reach the Valley of the Kings and take a right turn into the western
Valley (or Valley of the Monkeys), after a couple of hundred feet, you will find the
(restored) house of Theodore Davis (Ayrton).

Kent Weeks’ House
Just a couple of feet away from the Theodore Davis House, there’s one more
“dwelling”: Kent weeks’ Caravan.

Deir el Bahri: Naville’s house

Let’s go back to the Assasif area, to see what the Davies house, we mentioned
earlier, looks like now and then, visit this evenings’ main topic.

As I said, there’s one more house, I did not mention by name yet and it’s on the
way to the de Garis Davies House. Just before you reach Deir el-Bahri, you can
take a left into the Assasif area. Once you have done this, you will see the
majestic Metropolitan House, or Polish House as it’s called now and that’s where
it all started for us and our project.

The ‘Graphic Section’, the recording branch of the Metropolitan Museum
Expedition worked in Egypt from 1907 unitl appr. 1937. From the inception of
the museum’s Egyptian Department, John Pierpont Morgan was a major patron,
funding fieldwork projects and advancing funds as needed to Albert Morton
Lythgoe, The Met’s Museum’s Head of the Egyptian department, in the field.

Over time it has been home to many famous names, such as Arthur C. Mace,
Harry Burton, Howard Carter spend his share of time at the house, when the
Metropolitan Team helped him in every way they could, cataloguing and
photographing the finds in Tutankhamen’s tomb. Walter Hauser and, of course
Herbert Winlock. Today, the house (see above) still breathes the atmosphere
there must have been in the 1910’s and 1920’s. Just close your eyes and imagine
that, once you look outside, you are looking straight into the eyes of Herbert
Eustice Winlock, coming back from a day of digging.
Located amidst the tombs and hills of the Assasif area and with a clear view of
Deir el-Bahri and Hatshepsut’s temple complex, the Metropolitan House cannot
be overlooked.

We know that in 1912, construction of the house had not been finished (or at
least not completely), from H.E. Winlock, when he said, in 1911-1912 that “One
day Norman de Garis Davies had told me that I had better stop off on my way up
to the house we were building for the Expedition” (Excavations at Deir el-Bahri

Not many actual reports about the Metropolitan House have been made. Its
importance is only evident for those who have lived there. Yet, an interesting
account by Calvin Tomkins (Merchants and Masterpieces: The story of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art) gives us a little insight as to why the house was
“Archaeology, for the professional, is ninety-nine parts of hard labor and
frustration to every one part thrilling discovery. The Staff of the Metropolitan
expedition, however, led a pleasant life.
Pierpont Morgan came out to Luxor soon after operations started and decided
that men who worked that hard should have something better than a tent to
come back to in the evening. Morgan put up the money for a large, comfortable
base headquarters. It was called Morgan House until someone realized that the
great financier had merely advanced the money as a loan and then paid himself
back out of Museum funds; after that it was known as Metropolitan House.
Modeled after a Coptic church, withhick walls to hold the nightly chill and keep it
cool during the scorching midday, it had twelve bedrooms (single for bachelors,
double for married couples), a high-ceilinged common room for dining, and a
shady veranda overlooking, in front, the wide fertile plain, and in back, the stark
desert hills in which lay the great necropolis of ancient Thebes.”

Another paragraph says:
“Life at the Metropolitan House was relaxed and civilized, unlike the atmosphere
at the Oriental Institute of Chicago dig nearby, where a sort of military discipline
prevailed. There was bottled water for drinking and Nile water for bathing,
carried up in goatskins by tiny donkeys and cooled by evaporation. Illness (at the
Metropolitan House) was rare.”

Reports of famous visits, besides, of course, the visits from famous Egyptologists
of the past, are rare.
The only reference can be found in Merchants and Masterpieces:
“King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians visited the Metropolitan House
once (after WWI), and had lunch at that place.”
This visit took place on March 25th, 1930, during the second visit of Queen
Elizabeth to Egypt, by
invitation from King Fouad. (King Albert I was not present during the first trip in
February 1923, when Queen Elisabeth was present at the opening of the tomb of

The house was in use by the Metropolitan team between 1912 and
approximately 1937, after which it was used by the Egyptian Antiquities
Organization (EAO, the current SCA or Ministry of State for Antiquities) until
approximately 1960. Since 1961, the Polish-Egyptian Archaeological and
Conservation Mission to the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri has been
using the house, as well as some other Polish missions, e.g. recently the small
expedition led by Tomasz Gorecki, working in the Coptic area in TT 1152.

The Plan(s) of the House
Apparently, there are three plans for the house. The first appears at the bottom
right hand corner of the drawing, made by Palmer-Jones and shown at the Royal
Academy Exhibition of 1912.

The Plan(s) of the House
The second plan also dates back to 1912 and is signed “AM2182, Plan of
American House Luxor 1912, Palmer Jones”

The Plan(s) of the House
and the third one was one of two drawings by Palmer Jones, exhibited at the Royal
Academy Exhibition in 1913.
If we accept the 1912 drawing as the original plan, the house, as built, deviated from the
original plan. Once you compare the current layout with the three plans, it looks as if the
1913 plan is the most accurate one, e.g. the various study and storage rooms (or tombs,
used as storage rooms), now present, are not part of the original plan. Even the first two
plans (the one shown in the drawing and the original 1912 plan) are not an exact match.
The 1912 plan for the house (Academy Architecture and Architectural Review, vol. 41,
1912, p. 37) shows many rooms:
a dining room,
living room,
ten bedrooms,
a bathroom,
a kitchen,
a pantry,
a servants’ room,
a drawing room,
two verandas (Mandaras) and
two workrooms.
Comparison of the various drawings by Palmer Jones with old (and recent) photographs
show that the house, as it was built already differed from the original plan
The Plan(s) of the House
None of the three plans mentions the west corner room as being the Director’s
office, which it has been since the beginning and still is. Recently, Mariusz Caban,
a student, majoring in architecture, finished an accurate plan of the house in its
current state. These plans can be found on our website

The Metropolitan House today.
As with every house built (for the greater part) from mud brick, the Metropolitan
House has suffered some damage over the years (some of it already visible as
early as 1919-20).

The Metropolitan House today.
The Metropolitan House was built on a slope, facing north. The foundation of the
house was made of limestone blocks, of which there were, no doubt, plenty lying
around in the area, at the time.

The Metropolitan House today.
Parts of a tomb or temple? Definitely, since there are at least two blocks that
show pharaonic carvings and three small ancient columns were embedded into
the corners of the house.

The Metropolitan House today.
For the rest, wood and mud brick were used, while fired bricks were used for
some of the interior walls. In order to get some cooling, the house was
constructed using a double roof (see right), facing from north to south, where the
(cooler) wind from the north could blow through.

The Metropolitan House today.
The same can be said for some of the top windows (especially the ones used for
the work and store rooms: they also face north. Here, it’s not only for letting the
wind blow in from the north, but also because of the northern light, to shed at
least some light into the house.

The Metropolitan House today.
One must remember that main electricity was not installed until the 1970’s, by
the Polish mission. In Winlock’s day there must have been some sort of electricity
(e.g. by a generator), judging from the presence of electric lamps in the 1930
photo of the living.

The Metropolitan House today.
In later years, mainly during the time after the Egyptian-Polish mission started to
occupy the house, some important additions were made to the house, such as
electricity throughout the house (1970’s).
During the time of Dr. Jadwiga Lipińska, a ‘guest house’ was added to the building
to meet the growing demand of living quarters for the team’s members.
A garage was also added to the grounds to hold Dr. Lipińska’s Vaz (Lada). This
garage was torn down in 2011 (interesting note: for some time, Dr. Lipińska’s Vaz
was parked inside the garage at Theodore Davis’ old dig house in the Valley of
the Monkeys. Only recently – around 2008 – the car was moved to the SCA
compound, just behind Howard Carter’s old house. Word has it, that the car,
although taken apart, still remained inside the compound.)
Around 2001, one of the two bathrooms was completely renovated.

The Metropolitan House today.
Doors, lamp fittings, floor tiles, window panes, etc. have been able to withstand
the test of time, e.g. many of the original lamps are still in place, adapted for the
new way of lighting the rooms.

The Metropolitan House today.
The Mashrabyia doors between the living room and the dining room date back to
the beginning. Some of the furniture, although not the original ones anymore,
has been modeled to look like the ones from the time of Herbert Winlock and all
the other famous names, associated with the Metropolitan House. The tiles on
the floor used to be walked on by these men and women from the early days of
Not all of the original house and surrounding structures have survived, though.
Just recently, both the Reis’es small house to the east of the main building as well
as the small dome on the east side and Herbert Winlock’s stables were
demolished, during an attempt to tear down the whole house. Fortunately this
was stopped in time.

The Future of dighouses
Although not part of Egypt’s ancient history, the Metropolitan House as well as
other old dighouses in Egypt are well worth our attention, as the people who
uncovered Ancient Egypt in the past, and still do so today, called these places
their ‘home from home’.
Because a lot of these houses have been built on antiquities’ land, they are
under the threat of being demolished, thus destroying not only, in some cases,
beautiful structures, but also a part of Egypt’s more recent history.
Let’s hope that the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities will give us the time
to document them and preserve their information for future generations, so they
too will know about these ‘homes away from home’ – the places where the
Egyptologists who first uncovered Egypt’s secrets used to live.

1 comment:

Egyptian Dig Houses said...

thanks for posting this, Jane. I appreciate it.

You might be interested to hear, that I have already chosen possible subjects for next year's lecture (if I am asked to do one, that is :-))

1. Theodore Davis House ánd his Dahabyah, and/or
2. Beit Franchese (which I did not mention in the lecture) in Luxor.