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Additional resources for A Passion for Egypt: Arthur Weigall, Tutankhamun and the 'Curse of the Pharaohs'
Their destination in Egypt was Abydos, about 250 miles south of Cairo, where there was a royal cemetery in the western desert going back to the period of the First Dynasty, which began about 3000 BC. Petrie had been excavating there for two years, hard on the heels of an earlier excavator, Emile Amelineau, who had given Abydos the bran-tub treatment. Petrie himself tells the story: During four years there had been the great scandal of Amelineau’s work at the Royal Tombs of Abydos. He had been given a concession to work there for five years; no plans were kept (a few incorrect ones were made later), there was no 28 EGYPT ‘LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE’ record of where things were found, no useful publication.
Not only that, but there were others equally interested in the fact. He describes what happened: Reaching the mound of sand which surrounded our excavation, we crept to the top and peeped over into the crater. At once we observed a dim light below us, and almost immediately an agitated but polite voice from the opposite mound called out in Arabic, “Go away, mister. 13 Tomb-robbing was a traditional and, to the Egyptians, a not dishonourable practice. Any news of a royal tomb spread instantly among the locals and archaeologists had to be constantly on the alert.
Professor Rhys Davis, the Asiatic and Buddhist scholar, and Percy Newberry, an Egyptologist at that time in charge of a survey of the Theban necropolis, both took the prudent line in favour of accountancy, at any rate for some time longer. ’ Weigall’s future was therefore being actively debated and steps were being taken at the same time as his romance was in progress, by others apart from the lady in question. So much so, that when the affair ended, and Weigall left the City, he wrote a breathless letter to Newberry confiding the whole thing to him.