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Field Notes From
Egypt's Forgotten Treasures

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From Photographer
Kenneth Garrett

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Kenneth Garrett


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Egypt's Forgotten Treasures

Field Notes From Photographer
Kenneth Garrett
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A committee was established to collect all the pieces for the exhibit. So when I got to Egypt, we planned to travel to storerooms all over the country to pick up pieces that had never been on display before. One of the storerooms was a rock-cut tomb from the 4th Dynasty located in the pyramid zone at Giza. The famous Egyptologist Abu Bakr discovered the artifacts inside in the early 1960s. But by the time he died, he had not published the finds. So few people knew about the items that remained locked in this tomb for 40 years. It took us hours to get in, but the parade of treasures that came out was extraordinary. Workers brought out 30 statues, one of which was a fabulous painted limestone scribe. They were incredible. It was so exciting! And I was shooting film like crazy.

I was involved in crafting the centennial exhibit from the beginning. But, because the situation was unfolding every day, it was impossible for me to think through my magazine coverage ahead of time. I needed to get enough pieces representative of the different historical periods, but the artifacts had not been assembled, organized, or curated. And there was no caption information. When boxes arrived from remote storerooms, we'd open them with enthusiasm. But I couldn't make good decisions about which pieces to shoot because we had no idea what was coming the next day. It was frustrating, but by the end of two weeks it had all worked out fine.

While opening boxes of artifacts, we discovered two small limestone sarcophagi with gilded shrews on top. I thought they were incredible, like toy coffins with gold foil shrews. When we slid the lids off, we found two wrapped shrew mummies in one sarcophagus and one mummy in the other. I discovered later that the shrew, a nocturnal creature with poor vision, is associated with an incarnation of the sun god Horus at night. So here I was, the photographer of the story, the eyes on the scene, and my favorite piece turned out to be representative of an almost-blind god. I hope there was no omen in that.

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