Walter Bryan Emery

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Dates: 
1903 - 1971

British Egyptologist; he was born Liverpool, 2 July 1903, son of Walter Thomas E., a principal of a technical college, and Beatrice Mary Benbow; he was educated at St. Francis Xavier’s College, Liverpool; while at school his interest in Egyptology was aroused at the age of 13 by reading novels of Rider Haggard and hearing public lectures given by Garstang on his discoveries in Egypt and the Sudan; after leaving college, 177 he was apprenticed for a short time to a firm of marine engineers where he was trained in draughtsmanship and constructional drawing; he studied at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Liverpool under Newberry and Peet 1921-23; MA Liverpool (hon. causa) 1939; FSA, 1941; MBE, 1943; DLitt University of London, 1959; FBA, 1959; CBE, 1969; in 1923 his first article appeared in AAA and the same year he was sent out by the EES as assistant to help survey and plan the urban site at Amarna under Newton and Griffith, 1923- 24; he was chosen by Mond to be Director of the latter’s excavations carried out on behalf of the University of Liverpool at Luxor and Armant, 1924-28; on the W. bank at Thebes he cleared and restored about 20 tombs in the Upper Enclosure, including Kenamun, published in AAA 1927, 1929; he also prepared facsimile drawings of the reliefs in the tomb of Ramose, 1928-29, later used for Davies’s publication; he made a notable discovery of the Bucheum at Armant, an excavation undertaken against the advice of Carter, 1925; he married Mary Magdalene (Molly) Emery (d.3 Dec 1973), 1928; his next work was for the Egyptian Government Antiquities Service as Director of the Archaeological Survey of Nubia, lasting for six years, 1929-35; assisted by L. P. Kirwan, thousands of graves and houses as well as settlements were excavated, and some work was also undertaken on the Nubian fortresses at Quban; here Emery first acquired the technique for analyzing mud brickwork in buildings; the great mounds of Ballana and Qustul were investigated and excavated, providing very rich finds of the Roman-Byzantine (X-Group) period, 1931-34 now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo; he was made Director of Excavation at N. Saqqara in succession to Firth, 1935-39; this work involved the almost complete excavation of the great First Dynasty cemetery and is certainly the work for which he will probably be remembered more than any other; the clearance of the great tomb of Hemaka in 1935 was followed by numerous others with many unique features, both before and after the war; he served in the British Army during the war, 1939-46, and was with the Eighth army in the Western Desert; mentioned in Dispatches, 1942; he left the army as Director of Military Intelligence with the hon. rank of Lt. Col.; as no Egyptological post was then available he became Attaché British Embassy Cairo, 1947-50, afterwards First Secretary, 1950-51; he was able to resume full time work in Egyptian archaeology on his appointment to the Edwards Professorship, University College London, 1951-70; Field Director EES excavations, 1952-71; he worked at Buhen in N. Sudan for seven seasons, 1957-63 and at Qasr Ibrim 1961, as part of the UNESCO campaign from 1960 onwards; he supervised the dismantling and transport of the temples at Buhen to Khartoum; he also had overall direction of surveying and other work in Nubia; he returned to Saqqara to work in 1964; among his subsequent discoveries was the Iseum or burial place of the ‘Mothers of Apis’, 1970; much material from his later finds went to the Cairo Museum, British Museum and Petrie collections as well as to other museums throughout the world; he was Norton Lecturer of the Archaeological Institute of America, 1954-55; also gave the first series of de Buck memorial lectures, 1961; Member of the German Arch. Institute, l’Institut d’Egypte etc.; his principal published works were, The Excavations and Survey between Wadi es-Sebua and Adindan, 1929-31, with L. P. Kirwan, 2 vols., 1935; The Royal Tombs of Ballana and Qustul, with chapters by L. P. Kirwan, 2 vols., 1938; Excavations at Saqqâra. The Tomb of Hemaka, with Zaki Yusef Saad, 1938; Excavations at Saqqâra 1937-38. Hor Aha, with Zaki Yusef Saad, 1939; Nubian Treasure: an account of the discoveries at Ballana and Qustul, 1948; Excavations at Saqqâra. Great Tombs of the First Dynasty I, 1949, vol. II, 1954, vol. III, 1958; Saqqâra and the Dynastic Race (inaugural lecture),1952; Archaic Egypt, 1961; A Funerary Repast in an Egyptian tomb of the Archaic Period (A. de Buck memorial lecture), 1962; Egypt in Nubia, 1965; and posthumously The Fortress of Buhen: The Archaeological Report, with H.S. Smith and A. Millard,1979; he collapsed suddenly on 7 March, had a second stroke and died in the Anglo-American hospital, Cairo, 11 March 1971; he was buried 12 March in the civil section of the British Cemetery, Cairo.