COSI’s Lost Egypt Exhibition


Video: Moving the Mummy by COSI

Today, we moved “Annie” our mummy to her new glass encased home where she will be on display through September 7, 2009.  You could hear a pin drop as we rolled her down the hallway.

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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!



Lost Egypt’s Amazing Camel by COSI

Author: Kate

Our camel (who we’ve nicknamed Sarah) is almost finished! A couple of our Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM) partners headed to Blue Rhino Studios to see the progress. To see if the camel is going to hold up as thousands of kids climb on it, we have to test it (that’s the fun part!), so here’s the team at Blue Rhino, as well as Dan Miller and Dick Leerhoff from SMM hard at work!

Blue Rhino Testers

Blue Rhino Testers

Dan Miller and Camel

Dan Miller and Camel

Dick Leerhoff and Camel

Dick Leerhoff and Camel

Since last time, the eyes, ears, and teeth have been added, and the camel has been painted.

Camel Face

Camel Face

Camel Face

Camel Face

Sarah’s hump is pretty tall, and we’ve had to think about how people will climb into the saddle. We designed the saddle similar to real ones on camels, and we’ll be adding some decoration like blankets to soften it up. We have added a stirrup as well to help the riders.

Complete Camel

Complete Camel

It’s been amazing seeing Sarah emerge from a block of foam, being sculpted into a camel that looks just like the ones we saw in Egypt!



Creating an Exhibit that Won’t Fall Through the Floor by COSI

Author: Josh

Exhibit design is exciting, and it’s definitely rewarding, but it’s not without its challenges.  Take for example the development that our “Pyramid Rock Challenge” as gone through to this point:

Our concept for this piece was to create an experience that gave visitors a taste of just what a daunting task moving the pyramid stones would have been.  We started out designing something that replicated the size of some of the largest stones.  This would have been a simple piece (a frame that showed in three dimensions the size of one of the stones), but it definitely would give a person a feel for just how big one of these stones really is.

Wooden Frame Model

Wooden Frame Model

As we thought about this more, we decided that we wanted to design a piece that was more tactile and preferably something that was more interactive (a place where visitors could do something rather than just look at something).  As we discussed this, someone came upon the idea of having a piece of limestone inside the exhibit that was the same size as one of the pyramid stones.  What a great idea!  People could touch the stone and even try to move it, and it would feel much more authentic than a wooden frame.

We contacted a local stone company, and they said they could provide a stone of that size (about six feet by six feet by three feet).  We even looked into getting two stones so that we could use one in the Atrium to let people know about the exhibit and one in the exhibit itself.  Unfortunately, that’s when physics started getting in the way of our plans.  We had originally figured that our floor (and the floors at other museums) could support a stone that weighed about 5,000 pounds.  Unfortunately, a stone the size of the pyramid blocks would weigh considerably more than that.  A cubic foot of granite weighs roughly the same amount as a cubic foot of limestone, and if you’ve ever been in Big Science Park you know that our 5,000 pound granite sphere is a lot smaller than 6’x6’x3’ (well, it’s a sphere and this would be a rectangular prism, but you get the point).   The size of the stone got even smaller after we spoke with an engineering firm.  It turns out that we needed to not only think about the weight of the stone, but also the weight of the forklift that would be moving the stone.  The forklift we use weighs around 3,000 pounds.  When lifting a 5,000 pound stone, most of the combined weight would be focused on the front two wheels of the forklift.  That breaks down to 4,000 pounds of weight per wheel (5,000 lb. stone + 3,000 lb. forklift / 2 wheels), and the maximum load the wheels could safely support on the upper floor of our building is 3,000 pounds per wheel.

So our 5,000 pound stone had to become a 3,000 pound stone.  That’s not a very big stone!   It became time to rethink the activity again.  And when we thought about it, we realized the intent of the activity was to show that while it would have been very difficult to move these stones, ancient Egyptian technology would have made it easier.  So we came up with this:

Sled Moving Activity

Sled Moving Activity

This lets the visitors move a weight over different surfaces using technology (wooden sleds and ropes) that would have been available to the Egyptians when they were building the pyramids.   It’s much more interactive than a big stone, and it should give our guests a good idea of how the ancient Egyptians may have moved these tremendous objects.  It’s also a lot less likely to fall through the floor, which makes our facilities people quite a bit happier.



The Dakhleh Oasis Project by COSI
April 28, 2008, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Construction News | Tags: , , , , , ,

Author: Kate

We’re continuing to film interviews for the Lost Egypt exhibition. Two weeks ago we met with Dr. Tosha Dupras at WOSU@COSI.

Tosha is one of our project advisors, and has been with us since the beginning of Lost Egypt. She’s an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Central Florida, and she teaches human osteology (the study of human bones), and forensic anthropology. She works at a couple of different sites in Egypt: the Dakhleh Oasis Project, and more recently, Dayr al-Barsha.

We had a great time interviewing her – it was fascinating to hear her talk about forensics and the bones she uncovers. She left for Egypt last week for another field season. Here’s my favorite picture of her, riding one of the military camels in Egypt!

The Dakhleh Oasis Project is really interesting. It is in the Western Sahara Desert in Egypt, one of five major oases there. Many different archaeological teams from universities and organizations work there, looking at many different time periods in Egyptian history, since there have been people living or traveling through the oasis from the Middle Pleistocene (around 400,000 years ago!) through today.

Scientists are studying the interaction between environmental changes and human activity here, which helps us better understand the present-day problems of life in a desert oasis, where there is fertile soil but a finite supply of water.

The Dayr Al-Barsha Archaeological Project is being led by an archaeological team from Belgium. Talking to Tosha about her different projects made us realize how many different languages you need to speak, read or at least understand as an anthropologist or archaeologist.

There are universities and organizations around the world leading the projects, and even within a team from the United States, there are often people from different countries hired as specialists. In addition, within Egypt, most of the teams are assisted by local crews, so communication is a big issue. French, German, Dutch, and Egyptian Arabic are among the languages it is useful to know (not to mention being able to read hieroglyphics!).



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!



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?