Harry Burton (English, 1879–1940)
The Egyptian Expedition of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gelatin silver print
6 3/4 x 9 1/8 in. (17.1 x 23.2 cm)
Burton's photograph of the treasury, a small room off the burial chamber in the tomb of Tutankhamun, is a classic image of discovery. Seeing the crouching jackal guarding the gilded shrine containing the king's viscera, and the jumble of opened and unopened boxes and funerary equipment beyond, one feels the sense of anticipation that must have gripped Carter and his companions when they had first looked into this room almost four years before the photograph was taken. During work in the burial chamber, the entrance to the treasury had been blocked to protect the contents from dust and other possible disturbance. A generator was provided for work carried out in the tomb, and the wires for the electric lighting that Burton used are just visible in the upper right corner of the doorway.
When the burial chamber was cleared and the temporary wall to the treasury removed at the beginning of the 1926–27 season, Carter and his team saw a dark room, filled with chests, models, shrines, and furniture, all left in slight disarray by early grave robbers and tidied up by necropolis officials not many years after Tutankhamun's burial. Before the archaeologists removed any objects, Burton set up his electric lights inside the treasury, and made this dramatic photograph. Contrary to expectation, the viewer stands in darkness and sees the gilt canopic shrine and jumble of objects as if the treasures themselves were the source of illumination—and so it must have seemed to those few who saw these divine objects in the roughly cut stone chamber.