Kathleen L. Sheppard
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Up the Nile
L’esprit du Nil
in Tea on the terrace
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Having finished preparing for the season, some archaeologists went out to the desert areas near Cairo, and throughout Lower Egypt. But many went south to Luxor, heading up the river by steamboat, dahabeah, or train, and sometimes stopping at various points along the way. The third chapter follows these river travellers and centralises their activities on these semi-private boats as scientific institutions in Egyptology. The boats served as labs, classrooms, offices, storerooms, and homes. Some archaeologists, like Charles Wilbour, Emma Andrews, Theodore Davis, Archibald Sayce, and James Breasted, travelled to Luxor in dahabeahs, or private houseboats. They would live on the river in these floating homes, entertain guests, host scientific meetings, and even store their artefacts to keep them safe. While dahabeahs were not necessarily options for all archaeologists on limited budgets, there were enough of them to analyse the role they played as semi-public spaces and as scientific institutions. James Breasted used dahabeahs in this manner, deliberately beginning to do so in 1905 and then continually after that for the next thirty years. He saw these floating laboratories as so important to Egyptology that he attempted, but failed, to get funding for a custom-built steamer to house his work in Egypt. Travelling up the Nile in any conveyance usually strengthened the bonds in each network, and, by turning the dahabeahs and steamers into scientific institutions themselves, they became truth spots by giving credibility to the work the travellers were doing.

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Tea on the terrace

Hotels and Egyptologists’ social networks, 1885–1925

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