Progress of the Work, January 1929
Harry Burton (English, 1879–1940)
The Egyptian Expedition of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gelatin silver print; 9 x 6 3/4 in. (23 x 17.1 cm)
Among his duties as expedition photographer, Burton recorded the excavation work in progress, carefully choosing the time of day for optimum effect. In this photograph, with the dust rising, one gets a good impression of the intense activity that enabled the early twentieth-century excavators to shift many tons of debris with what appears to be a cast of thousands. In fact, though the expedition sometimes employed over 500 diggers and basket boys, the excavations were under the constant supervision of the Museum's staff and their Egyptian foremen.
This photograph of the dig alongside the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri might easily be mistaken for a film "still" showing the temple's construction in an epic by Harry Burton's contemporary Cecil B. DeMille. The activity of the hundreds of laborers shown here was, in truth, little changed from the days when their ancestors built the structures they were now helping to unearth.