Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » A Photograph: In the Land of Egypt, 1921

A Photograph: In the Land of Egypt, 1921

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 15, 2010

Elders David O. McKay and Hugh J. Cannon on their around-the-world tour of LDS missions, 1921:




  1. How cool a picture. And what a tour that must have been for Elder McKay!

    Comment by Paul — September 15, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

  2. Cool photo. I can’t help it, though — I keep looking for the Scorpion King in there…

    Comment by Martin — September 15, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  3. I believe I recall seeing this photo in the Prince/Wright book, and the time I thought it would be interesting to figure out where that photo was taken from, for no other reason than my personal curiosity and love of maps. I’ve never been to Giza but it’s well-known that the site has seen extensive archaeological exposition in the time since this image was captured, and my curiosity is whether or not this picture could even be reproduced as a result of the mass number of structures discovered in the area. Not knowing what type of camera or lens would’ve been used, I’m just going to draw lines on the map based on what’s seen in the photo, and perhaps that will tell us more about where the photo was taken. A more advanced study based on specific lens characteristics would have to be done by someone else, as I don’t carry that knowledge.

    Since the z-plane of the aerial image is obviously skewed, I’m going to try and use only x and y coordinates at the ground level. The right side of the Pyramid of Khufu approaches the ground at the same angle as the southern-most of the three small pyramids in front of it, so a line can be drawn between the two northeastern-most points of the two structures. On the left side of the Pyramid of Khufu we can’t see where it hits the ground, but by drawing imaginary lines down and to the left it becomes clear that the photo would show the pyramid reaching the ground at the left-most side of the photo if the view of it wasn’t obstructed by the Sphinx. Drawing a line from that point through the south side of the Sphinx’s head gives us another line.

    Here’s the image I created to show these two lines: here

    Obviously the two lines I’ve drawn aren’t absolute, but they’re pretty close to the angles captured in the photo.

    My conclusions are twofold: First, I’m convinced more than ever that I’d really like to go to Giza. Second, I don’t believe this photo could be reproduced even if I did go to Giza. Apart from the obvious modern construction of the road between the Sphinx and the Pyramid of Khufu, and the throng of tourists getting in the way, closer examination of the area underneath the intersection of the two lines shows that a building has been excavated there since the McKay photo was taken. Here it is in more aerial detail: here

    Since it appears in the McKay photo that the subjects are perched on top of a mound or ridge. It’s most likely that they’re standing on top of a sand dune covering the structure underneath them that’s been unearthed since then. No doubt in the present one wouldn’t be able to stand on top of such an ancient wall. Other photos found online that the structure sits half-buried in the sand still, which suggests that the mound on top of it could’ve been a common sand dune.

    It occurs to me that if their camels took them from the site of the photo to a point closer to the pyramid, it’s likely that they would’ve walked directly over the Sphinx’s arms or paws, which were still buried at the time. It’s possible that they may not have even known about the existence of the arms while they were there.


    Comment by Tim — September 16, 2010 @ 12:36 am

  4. I tweaked your photo links a little, Tim, and think they work now. Thanks for this unexpected consideration of the photo.

    Of course I already knew that the Sphinx was partially buried for centuries — I learned that from reading Asterix comic books (I’m the proud owner of a full set of the comics, a mission souvenir). I think it was Obelix who broke off the Sphinx’s nose while he was climbing around on it circa 50 B.C. {g}

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 16, 2010 @ 2:47 am

  5. Ha! I haven’t thought much about Asterix and Obelix since my own mission. I do recall, though, that there was a live-action film starring Gérard Depardieu as Obelix — please tell me you saw it!

    Comment by Tim — September 16, 2010 @ 3:06 am

  6. No! I’m clicking through to Netflix right now to look for it!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 16, 2010 @ 3:41 am

  7. What a cool photo. And an unexpected addition too. Nice.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — September 16, 2010 @ 9:54 am

  8. Golly, I need a pith helmet. An excellent find, Ardis.

    Comment by Moniker Challenged — September 17, 2010 @ 11:17 am

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