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!



COSI Visits Life on an Egyptian Farm by Carli
March 8, 2008, 5:49 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Author: Carli

On our way back to the hotel after a long hot day in the Valley of the Kings, with another layer of tomb dust on our boots, and astounding photos and memories locked in our minds, we stopped at a small farm house in the middle of a sugar cane field. We took photos and video of the young men working in the field, and were invited into the mud-brick house by the father and his two wives (yes, two).

They must have had ten or twelve children, who were gracious and showed us around their home. The floors and walls were made of mud, and their beds were made of sheets on the ground. The children wore tattered clothing and pajamas but were well fed and laughed contagiously. One of the older girls grabbed my hand and said, “madam, madam, I show you something.”

With cautious curiosity I followed her into a roofless room in the house which housed their animals. One of the goats had a young kid, which couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. The girls picked up the baby animal and brought him to me to pet. Their cows were a bit spooked by our invasion, and I kept tripping over ducks and buckets of feed. Then the father motioned me over to the donkey for a test ride. I climbed up onto their donkey, and they placed one of their youngest daughters in front of me.

We had a great laugh, and the older daughter who had led me around the home asked if it was my first time on a donkey, which was clearly evident from the way the poor animal shifted from side to side trying to remove the obvious rookie from his back. We thanked them for their hospitality and gave them “baksheesh” (tips) for their willingness to share their lives on camera, and then we somehow switched off the urge to cry, and got back on our air-conditioned bus to hit the hotel buffet before the crowds.

The family was strong, happy, and healthy, yet their livelihood might as well have been on another planet. It was so foreign. Our guide, Ehab, said that the farmer probably makes at most $2000 Egyptian pounds per month, which is the equivalent of about $400 US dollars. But he also said that this is the lifestyle that they are used to; they wouldn’t know what to do with any more. Yet somehow I can’t help but wish to do more.



Valley of the Kings Presents Problems and Solutions by Kate
March 8, 2008, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Author: Kate

The tombs in the Valley of the Kings were magnificent. This was the perfect ending of our tomb touring days. Walking into these tombs was exactly as I imagined it – a long stone ramp going ever downward. Without modern electric lights, it must have felt like descending into the underworld just to go inside one. Twice today, the lights went out for a couple of minutes while we were inside. In the first tomb we visited, there was a long ramp leading to the entrance, so you could still easily see daylight, but in the second, we were far enough in that it was completely dark – you couldn’t see anything at all. I loved it. I thought, this is what it was like when it was first built. Peaceful, dark, eternal.

The first tomb we visited was KV 9, the Tomb of Rameses VI. The 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 and videos are 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 no, this was all original, just very well preserved. At the end of the long ramp down, there was an enormous stone sarcophagus – truly worthy of a king.

Tomb of Rameses VI – Narrated by Carli

The second tomb we saw was a surprise. We had intended to visit Rameses III next, but when Josh and I scouted ahead, it was so swamped with people, we could barely move through it (it was like COSI on its busiest day, but in a very narrow passage, and a temperature of probably 95 degrees Fahrenheit inside-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). But Ehab suggested that instead we visit KV14, the tomb of Tausert, who was the royal wife of Sety II, then she became regent of Siptah, and finally, the last ruler of the 19th Dynasty.

The tomb has two large burial chambers, and it is thought that perhaps both Tausert and her husband were supposed to be buried there. The tomb decorations reflect how her role and status changed over time – shifting from the usual decorations for a queen’s tomb, such as scenes from the gates of the underworld and their guardians, to decorative themes more appropriate of a king’s tomb. The tomb was taken over for the burial of someone else, Seknakht, and all the images of Tausert were plastered over and replaced by images of Seknakht or his cartouches. This tomb was so beautiful. The big chambers were stunning – can’t wait to show the pictures!

The last tomb we saw was KV 34, the tomb of Thutmes III. The images and writing are done in a cursive style that mimics the writing on a roll of papyrus. Very charming and simple compared to the ornate decoration of the other tombs. Unfortunately, much of the tomb is behind Plexiglas (well, unfortunately for us, but obviously a good thing for the unique artwork!), so there are not as many images of this one.

The biggest challenge we faced was trying to photograph and film everything while tourists filed in. The site supervisor, guards and others were incredibly helpful in every location, and we’ll always be very grateful for their kind assistance! In the last tomb, we accidentally dropped a memory card into a shaft (probably 50 feet down??).

We were frantic, since it contained all the shots from the entire day. But as we were told, “In Egypt, whatever the problem, we will find a solution!” And they did. 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. There, he found our lost card, and they pulled him back up. Their generosity was overwhelming and deeply appreciated.



Through the Eyes of the People by Josh
March 6, 2008, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Trip to Egypt | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Author: Josh

So today I met with the Director of the Valley of the Kings, Queens, and Workers, stared out over the 418 known tombs of Deir el-Medinah, helped arrange an interview with the man who proved the pyramids were built by skilled laborers and not by slaves, sipped tea inside of a 3,000-year-old tomb and now I’m writing this looking out over the Nile at sunset. Are you kidding me?

This trip has been absolutely amazing. As we’ve been shooting these videos and stills, I can literally place each and every one inside this exhibit that we’re building, and I feel it growing stronger with every shot we take. We’re experiencing this magnificent country through the eyes of the people who are rediscovering its past. A lot of my friends and family seem to think that this is a vacation, and while we’ve certainly worked hard, no tourist’s visit could rival the way we are connecting with this place and these people. I’d write more but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I suspect that feeling will be with me for a while.