Eighteenth Dynasty Graffiti on a Pillar of the Temple of Mentuhotep, 1924–25 season
Harry Burton (English, 1879–1940)
The Egyptian Expedition of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gelatin silver print; 4 7/8 x 6 7/8 in. (12.4 x 17.5 cm)
Sometime in the early Eighteenth Dynasty (ca. 1470 B.C.), a scribe named Dedi scratched his name and the image of a divine bark into the plaster covering a pillar in the lower colonnade of the temple of the Eleventh Dynasty pharaoh Nebhepetre Mentuhotep (ca. 2020 B.C.). Dedi may have been commemorating the celebra¬tion of the Valley Festival, during which the bark of Amun, carrying the god's image enclosed in a shrine, was brought across the river from Karnak temple to visit the temples at Deir el-Bahri.
Burton photographed this 3,500-year-old graffito of a boat at the very time the Hungarian-born photographer Brassaï first recorded coarse designs scratched into Parisian walls. As crude as it is, the drawing has its own appeal—it is easier to imagine the person who scratched this doodle than the skilled artists who had carved the more elegant and refined reliefs on the surrounding temple walls 500 years earlier. Perhaps Burton felt simply that no detail was too small to record—or perhaps, like Brassaï, he found a touch of real life in the most naive sketch.