COSI’s Lost Egypt Exhibition

Photo Adventure in the Valley of the Kings by COSI
January 30, 2009, 11:08 am
Filed under: Trip to Egypt, Trips & Travels | Tags: , , , , ,

This story was shared with us by our photographer for our Egypt trip, Brad Feinknopf. We thought you might find it interesting too, so we’re sharing it here:

I am a commercial photographer located in Columbus, OH and I was recently hired by COSI, the local science center, which was in the process of creating an exhibit which will open the Summer of 2009 entitled Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets. Modern Science to travel to Egypt on a photographic expedition to create imagery for this exhibit. This exhibit will premier in Columbus, OH and then travel the United States. All the photography on this trip was shot with a Canon Mark II 1Ds on SanDisk Extreme III 4 GB cards.

Now to the story.

We were on Day 9 of this incredible expedition and we had been granted special access from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities to photograph three of the tombs at the Valley of the Kings. There are not many photographs of the tombs at the Valley of the Kings because photography is strictly forbidden and they rarely grant access. When we arrived at the Valley of the Kings, our Egyptologist knew the head guard, and he agreed to actually close each of the tombs we were to see for one hour apiece so we could photograph them. Keeping in mind that there are thousands of people who come to the Valley of the Kings every day, so to close the tombs for an hour was incredible and out of the ordinary.

The first tomb we visited was KV 9, the Tomb of Rameses VI. This tomb has been uncovered for a very long time – there’s even Greek and Roman graffiti on the walls in some places. It is filled with incredibly brilliant color decorations of religious iconography including the gods and goddesses. We were very excited about this – the photos were beautiful. At one point we asked if the color had been restored since it seemed impossible for it to have survived intact for so long, but our guide Ehab said this was all original and just very well preserved. At the end of the long ramp down, there was an enormous stone sarcophagus – truly worthy of a king.

The second tomb we saw was a surprise. We had intended to visit Rameses III next, but it was so swamped with people that we could barely move through it. The temperature inside was probably 95 degrees Fahrenheit (you’d think the tombs would be cooler inside, but with all the people going through and the lack of air circulation, it’s like a sauna). Ehab suggested that instead we visit KV14, the tomb of Tausert, the royal wife of Sety II who became regent of Siptah and eventually the last ruler of the 19th Dynasty.

The last tomb we saw was KV 34, the tomb of Thutmes III. Now the story gets interesting. After shooting for 3 hours on a SanDisk Extreme III 4 GB card, I did the final shot of the day. I was standing on a bridge which connected the shaft to the burial chamber over a 50-foot drop. I was bracketing my exposures to make certain I had the correct exposure and my Canon knocked out 2 of the 3 shot bracket, filling up the 4 GB card. My initial thought was that the 2 captures would be fine, so lets wrap up and go. I then thought to myself that I had traveled all the way to Egypt to do this photography, so why risk any chance of not getting the shot? I had extra cards, so let’s switch out the cards. I opened the back of the camera and pressed the eject button (maybe a bit too hard) and the card shot out and fell 50 feet into the dark precipice with all the images from my entire time at the Valley of the Kings stored on it! I was frantic. I informed the group, and we shined a light borrowed from the videographer on the expedition into the precipice and could see the card. We immediately informed the guard at the tomb and were told, “In Egypt, whatever the problem, we will find a solution!” About 15 dreadful minutes passed, and then several men came back with a long rope which one of them wrapped several times around his waist. The others stood as if playing tug-of-war and carefully lowered him to the bottom. I watched fearfully as he wandered around the bottom of the pit, stepping with inches of the card several times. Despite the language barrier, he found our lost card, and they pulled him back up. Their generosity was overwhelming and deeply appreciated.

I now had my card back but had no idea if the 50 foot drop to the rocks would have affected its contents. The next few hours were arduous as we left the Valley of the Kings with no idea whether we had anything to show for our efforts. We traveled back to our hotel where I raced to my laptop to download the images (if they were even there). I am sure that it didn’t take long although it seemed like an eternity while the images downloaded from the card and I opened them up. After several grueling hours, I discovered that the SanDisk had held up and the images were intact!

I am eternally indebted to SanDisk for a fine product. One of the most incredible days of my life would have been lost to eternity had it not been for some very kind Egyptian guards at the Valley of the Kings and one very durable Sandisk Extreme III 4 GB card!


Back to Reality by Josh

Author: Josh

Well, we’ve been back stateside for almost two weeks now, and I feel I can safely say that I’m no longer jetlagged. Well, at least no more than usual.

We’re busy downloading all of the information and images that we picked up on this trip, sharing with our team here and our partners at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Of course, that’s going to take a minute – Brad shot over 3,000 photos during the course of the trip, and Cindy recorded over 15 hours of video! That’s a lot of post-production work! What we’ve looked at so far has been absolutely beautiful. Be sure to check out Carli’s link to Brad’s images – pretty impressive stuff.

And we aren’t even done with the interviews! We’ll be meeting with forensic anthropologist Dr. Tosha Dupras in early April to discuss forensics and mummies. Later that month we’ll travel to Birmingham, Alabama, to meet with Dr. Sarah Parcak, who’s doing some incredible work using satellite imagery to identify new archaeological sites in Egypt. And later this summer, we’ll meet with Dr. Janice Kamrin, an expert in Egyptian hieroglyphs who works for the Supreme Council of Antiquities. And, of course, we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to speak with Dr. Zahi Hawass…

We’ll keep updating the blog to provide the latest “behind-the-scenes” view of the making of “Lost Egypt.” There’s still plenty of excitement yet to come.

Egypt & Back in 22 Minutes by Carli
March 24, 2008, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , ,

Author: Carli

Our photographer, Brad Feinknopf, has posted a slideshow of photographs from our Egypt trip on his blog. Take a look at these amazing professional photos!

Egypt Trip Conclusion – Back Home by Carli
March 18, 2008, 3:36 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , , ,

Author: Carli

I am back at work today, and somehow my cubicle feels smaller. There just isn’t enough sunlight coming through, and I would rather tell stories about our trip than plow through my endless email inbox. I’m also struggling with the reality that last week I saw King Tut, and this week I am vacuuming and changing diapers again. There should be some sort of detox program to take you from the dawn of civilization and touching of history, back to the real world of 30-degree rainy, Columbus weather and household chores. Plunging from one to the next is just too hard on the system.

It seems like looking back on our blog entries that we over-used the words awe-inspiring and amazing. But I’m not sure that any other words in the English language would suffice. And even those don’t seem to do justice to the profoundness of what we saw. It was a life changing experience; that’s the only way to put it. My Aunt Sandy wrote me a note that said that reading our entries every day was a bit like peeking out from our pockets to catch a glimpse of what we were experiencing. If that is the case for others as well, then our mission was successful.

Our next challenge will be plowing through the hundreds of priceless images and countless hours of video clips to piece them together into the exhibit materials and promotional elements. I can’t even fathom where we’ll start. And I’m sure we’ll laugh and cry all over again as we look back at them. I am desperately hopeful that the exhibit will give an accurate glimpse into both the science and process of archaeology and the cultural richness that we experienced. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I wish I could broadcast it to the world! So here I am trying!

Wonder… Things that make you think by Josh
March 11, 2008, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Author: Josh

What’s left to say? Carli and Kate covered our experiences today nicely (as they have for the entire trip, allowing me to wax philosophic while they provide you with the real nuts and bolts of our experience), and now as I’m trying to sum up my feelings about this voyage I find myself drawing a blank.

Sleep deprivation can only be partially credited; I’ve found myself at a loss for words more than once during these past two weeks. I literally found myself wandering about the Egyptian Museum today with my mouth hanging open, surrounded by thousands of pieces of Egyptian history (125,000 pieces, to be more exact, with more than 1 million others in the museum’s storerooms).

If we consider that the first seeds of human civilization began about 10,000 years ago, then the Egyptians have dominated our landscape for roughly a third of that. Think about that. That’s six times as long as the Romans were king, roughly that for the Greeks, and about thirty times the amount of time that the United States has been a country… almost all of that took place at least 2,000 years ago. And we’ve spent the past few days retracing their footsteps.

We’ve asked ourselves more than once during the development of this exhibit, “How can we convince people to care about the past?” I’d say the answer to that question lies right here on the shores of the Nile.

These ancients speak to us about their lives, their loves, their hopes, and their dreams through each and every discovery, and as much as we’d like to convince ourselves otherwise, they weren’t that different than us. People 3,000 years ago were pretty similar to you and me. And if we haven’t changed that much during all that time, then how can those of us living on this planet right now really be all that different, regardless of our heritage, language, or religion?

Sharing My Heart… by Kate
March 11, 2008, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Author: Kate

It was wonderful to finally meet Salima, who has been one of our project advisors for the past couple of years. I’ve had phone conferences and email exchanges with her, but those don’t quite capture her energy and humor. She was very patient with us – we were exhausted today.

In my attempt to be efficient, I only scheduled 1 hour for us to film in the Egyptian Museum (a major miscalculation!), so we spent time almost running from room to room and still only saw a small portion of the objects there. There were wonderful papyrus scrolls on display, along with lots of ostraka, which are pieces of pottery, stones, etc. on which the ancient Egyptian wrote notes, receipts, and other information (kind of an early version on Post-Its).

A couple of days ago at the Visitor Center for the Valley of the Kings, we watched footage of Howard Carter and his team taking the objects out of King Tut’s tomb, including the famous “cow bed.” Today, we saw the real thing. A solid gold bed. The beads and jewelry were incredible – intricate collars and necklaces in gold, the deep blue of lapis lazuli, orange carnelian, and other stones. My sister Lisa, who does beadwork, would love these.

We walked through rooms of stone statues 20-30 feet tall, and the sheer number of objects we saw overwhelmed us. It really brought home the concept of how much the ancient Egyptians took with them to the afterlife, and the amazing artistry that went into the creation of all these items.

I’ll miss Egypt. It’s been an amazing experience being here – one I’ll always remember. Brad and I looked back through his photos at the many faces and places we’ve seen. Will I remember it all? Not just the sights and sounds, tombs and pyramids, but the feelings? What it was like to see Sekhmet in the darkness, drink tea with the tomb guards, talk to the archaeologists who I’ve only read about in books, or share my heart with this astounding place.

Goodbye from Egypt! by Carli
March 11, 2008, 1:39 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Author: Carli

Today began with an interview with esteemed animal mummy specialist, Salima Ikram, and ended with a journey through the Cairo Museum, a building of priceless treasures which, like everything else we have seen, is hard to describe with words. Room after room of immeasurable riches were a fingertip away.

I found myself standing face-to-face with the mask of King Tut. We stood in a room of mummies including Tuthmosis and Ramses II. We saw the mummy of an 18-foot alligator. We wandered through corridors of towering statues, sarcophagi, and cases of amulets, jewelry, and art. Our guide said there were over 150,000 pieces on display and hundreds of thousands more in the basement and other storage areas.

We fly home tomorrow, and part of me can’t believe the trip is coming to an end, and another part of me feels like we’ve been here for a month based on the amount of experiences we’ve had, and wonders we’ve seen. I should write a more profound and reflective ending, but I’m so tired that I’m having a hard time keeping from falling asleep on the key board. I’ll save a finale for when my brain waves return. Goodbye from Egypt!