From 1852 to 1855 Greene, the first photographer-archaeologist to work and travel in Egypt, concentrated his studies and excavations at Thebes and Deir el-Bahri. At Medinet-Habu (Thebes) he cleaned important inscriptions. This photograph represents a corner of a second courtyard of the temple and depicts the last eighteen lines of the inscription of the year 5 of the reign of the Ramesses III, recounting with effusive praise the king's victories over the peoples to the north.
Whether or not we can decipher the writing upon the wall, the message of Greene's picture is clear. In the penumbra behind the massive pylon is the story of a perished people preserved in stone. The velvet shadows of this eggplant-colored print make tangible the millennia between Ramesses' glory and that less distant moment when the young archaeologist contemplated the chronicle he had exposed.