Living on site

Archaeological sites are often located in very remote areas. Rather than commuting over considerable distances each day, therefore, it is often more practical to live on or very near the location of the site. The Egypt Exploration Society has made use of roughly three different types of accommodation over its history including tents, houses and sometimes even ancient tombs!

Dig houses were required to fulfill a range of functions beyond that of mere accommodation. In addition to amenities such as a kitchen and bedrooms, one of the most crucial additions would be either a store-room or magazine for finds uncovered during the season as well for archaeological equipment or other supplies such as food and drink, for example.

Buhen and Amara West

(L) The team at Buhen pose outside the dig house on Christmas Day 1960, (R) Explorer essentials on the table at Amara West

Garstang 1909ABYDOS (1909 – 1910)

Abydos was first excavated on behalf of the, then, Egypt Exploration Fund in 1899 and a number of dig houses at the site were constructed. The issues surrounding provision for accommodation in 1909-10 require special mention. Although the Fund raised enough money for the construction of a new dig house, the building was immediately deemed inadequate for the needs of the team. This led to a process of negotiation with John Garstang from the University of Liverpool who already owned a house at Abydos, with the Fund eventually paying £50 for it on the understanding that Garstang would also give up his concession at Abydos. A letter from John Garstang to Naville in 1909 can be seen to the left (click for a close-up). The team then subsequently inhabited both dig houses for the 1909-10 dig season with Thomas Eric Peet and his brother Walter Dudley Peet, and James Alfred Dixon, residing in the newly purchased abode, whilst previous director Édouard Naville took up residence in the Fund’s house. The Garstang house was used until it was finally demolished in 1967 and replaced by the current Pennsylvania-Yale-Institute of Fine Arts accommodation.

The Egypt Exploration Society ha used many dig houses over the last 133 years, many of which have been researched and reported on in the past. You can download a compilation of archival material and news reports in a special Tents and Tombs booklet put together especially for Excavating Egypt.

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