Ambrose Lansing (American, 1891–1959)
The Egyptian Expedition of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 4 3/4 in. (15.9 x 12 cm)
These simple wooden coffins appear to have been dumped carelessly into a pit, evoking visions of tomb robbers. In fact, they are coffins dating to the late Middle Kingdom (ca. 1700 B.C.) that were reburied after their original tombs were unearthed during a huge building project in the reign of the Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh Thutmose III (ca. 1450 B.C.).
Amid all the splendor of the royal tombs, there is something poignant about these simple coffins unearthed in the course of the Museum's excavations at Deir el-Bahri during the 1918–19 season. The photograph prompts thoughts not of buried treasure but rather of ordinary lives and deaths, for these might easily be mistaken for plain pine caskets in a Depression-era photograph by Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange.