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  Field Notes From
The Sun God's Treasurer

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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


The Sun God's Treasurer

Field Notes From Photographer
Kenneth Garrett

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    The basic structure of Egyptology hasn't changed over the years. We've known about king lists and the framework of the Egyptian empire for a long time, but not a lot about the personal details of people's lives. Now we're finally starting to get that. With each excavation we're getting finer resolution on the individual players, their politics, and their interactions with others. To me, that's what is the really exciting part about the story. Not only do we know about Akhenaten, but we also know about his treasurer Raïay, whose wife, Maïa, was the wet nurse for the pharaoh's son and famous successor, Tutankhamun.

    I found out about the tomb's excavation from a newspaper article in December 2002, but I wasn't able to meet up with head scientist Alain Zivie in Egypt until six months later. So by the time I arrived at the site, it had been completely cleaned out. The major work and studying had already been done, which was disappointing to me because that's what I love photographing most—the moment of discovery.

    Some of the stories I've done for National Geographic have taken from a few days to a few months, but this one only took three hours, making it my shortest assignment. Zivie was returning home to Paris the next day, so my window to get photos of Raïay's tomb was very small. I met Zivie at the tomb at 7 a.m., but by the time we got the key to the site it was already ten o'clock. By then I only had until 1 p.m., when everyone goes home for the day. I knew I wasn't going to be lucky enough to get another hour.

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