The Griffith Institute
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Burton photographs

Name of the object: Burton photographs

Date: 1922 to 1923.

Object information: Two photographs of objects in the tomb of Tutankhamun, photographic prints, 24.7 cm by 18.8 cm.

Archive number: Burton photograph p0009 (left), Burton photograph p0026 (right).

Information link:

Image link:;

Background information: Harry Burton (1879-1940) was the official photographer for the Tutankhamun excavation. He was the only person allowed to take photographs inside the tomb. Burton took nearly 2,000 photographs during the ten years that it took to empty the tomb. Burton would take photographs of the objects on the spot they were discovered. Then small white cards with excavation numbers would be placed next to the objects, and he would take a second photograph of the same view showing the numbered cards in position. After the photographs were taken, the excavation team could move the objects from the tomb to the nearby conservation studio. In the 1920s photographers used an early type of camera which recorded the image directly onto a flat glass plate negative which was used to print the photographs. All the glass negatives created during the excavation of the tomb are now kept in the Griffith Institute Archive in Oxford.


Object activities - these two photographs show the same objects but the photographs are not identical so spot the differences, with a partner see how many different objects you can spot, which object(s) do you like best and why.

Extension activities - write a list of all the objects you can see in the photograph, think about how you are going to organize your list; place several objects on a tray and look at them carefully then cover the tray with a cloth, now write down all the objects you can remember, remove the cloth and check how many you remembered; look for everyday examples of objects packed tightly together and take some photographs of them.

Related objects:

Gallery of Harry Burton’s Tutankhamun photographs:

What is a photographic negative: