Procession of Objects from the Tomb to the House, evening of March 19, 1920
Harry Burton (English, 1879–1940)
The Egyptian Expedition of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gelatin silver print; 9 x 6 3/4 in. (22.9 x 17.2 cm)
Among the most famous pieces in the Metropolitan's collection of Egyptian art are the wooden models found in a small hidden room in the tomb of a Middle Kingdom official named Meketre (died ca. 1985 B.C.). Because the ceiling threatened to collapse, the chamber containing the models was cleared in three days, with Burton taking and developing several dozen photographs of the process. At the end of each day, the models were carried from the tomb to the excavation house along essentially the same route that had been taken by Meketre's funeral procession nearly forty centuries earlier.
On the second evening, Burton halted the double line of barefoot porters on their way from the tomb of Meketre to the Museum's expedition house. Arrayed across the page like a procession of gift bearers in an ancient wall painting, Egyptian workers transport some of the wood models—riverboats, a farmyard—that were meant to provide for Meketre in the afterlife. The journey that these perfectly preserved time capsules of daily life were making to the twentieth century was no less miraculous than their intended passage to the realm of the dead.