A Photographic Study© Introduction

These 1055 photographs were taken by Professor James Henry Breasted and his colleagues on two reconnaissance trips to Nubia during the years 1905-1907. It was Professor Breasted's wish to record the historical monuments and inscriptions of ancient Nubia, for, as Charles Breasted wrote in the biography of his father, Pioneer to the Past, "the meticulous recording of long-known, steadily perishing, and largely unpublished historical monuments above ground had about it almost none of the excitement and fascination popularly associated with digging for buried treasure. But he was more than ever convinced that however much the excavations of men like Petrie, Davis, Quibell and others might contribute to Egyptology, he himself could render it no greater service than to copy while they were still legible the historical records in the ancient monuments of Egypt."

Breasted's first campaign to Nubia began in November, 1905, and ended in April, 1906. Professor Breasted's travels with Mrs. Breasted, Charles, an American engineer, Victor Persons, and a German photographer, Friedrich Koch, began in Alexandria, where they boarded a train to Cairo. From there they traveled by rail to Luxor (Thebes) and then southward to Aswan. Breasted and his crew worked for forty days photographing and copying inscriptions at Abu Simbel and then moved on to their last stop at Wadi Halfa. Charles Breasted said that by April 3, 1906, his father had finished copying the historic inscriptions in all the pre-Ptolemaic temples of Lower Nubia, the region between the First and Second Cataracts. Breasted had accomplished this by a new method, whereby Mr. Koch would photograph an inscription and make blueprints from the negatives, which Breasted would then collate with the original. They often had to work in almost intolerable conditions, by candlelight in the dark rock-hewn tombs, with their heat, bats, and foul air.

On his second trip Breasted went along the upper Nile in the northern Sudan, beginning again at Cairo, in October of 1906. Accompanying him on this reconnaissance were photographer Horst Schliephack and English Egyptologist Norman de Garis Davies, an excellent copyist and draftsman. The expedition began this season at Meroe, where Breasted and Davies began key plans of the pyramids. The group then moved fifty miles by caravan and train southwestward to Naga'. Charles Breasted has reported that the monuments recorded there, together with those of Meroe, were all that had survived of the history of Nubia as an independent nation. Next, after a caravan march of five hours, the expedition photographed the Nubian palaces at Musauwarat and then traveled by rail to Khartoum, arriving in the midst of the Moslem Bairam festival. From there they moved on to Abu Hamed, at the head of the Fourth Cataract, and then followed the entire 400 mile westward swing of the Nile from the foot of the Fourth Cataract to the foot of the Third by boat. Along the Fourth Cataract stops were made at Kareima, Gebel Barkal (Napata), and Dongola. At the head of the Third Cataract on the Island of Tumbos the expedition photographed the five triumphal stelae of Tuthmosis I. Other stops along the way included Dulgo, Gebel Gurgod, and Soleb. At Kosheh the group came ashore for difficult land travel, including the pass of Doshat. Stops were made at the Island of Sai, Sedeinga, Amara, Tangur, Semna East (Kumma), Semna West, the Island of Uronarti, and Sarras. They reached their last stop, Wadi Halfa, on March 5, 1907, the day on which Professor Breasted proudly wrote in his journal, "At Halfa we were 1000 miles up the Nile. From a point nearly 1000 miles still farther up, beginning with the southernmost ancient monuments in the Nile valley-that is, nearly 2000 mile from the Mediterranean-the expedition has this year carried the work of exploration and recording down to our last year's 1000-mile starting point."