Photo from the collection of Michael G. Wilson, courtesy of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Among the remains at Karnak—the complex of religious buildings in the northeastern corner of modern-day Luxor—Frith spotted this fallen obelisk lying atop a pile of rubble. The main temple at Karnak, erected during the New Kingdom period (1550–1069 B.C.), was dedicated to the god Amun-Ra. In 667 B.C., the temple and Karnak itself were destroyed by the Assyrians led by King Ashurbanipal. When Frith arrived at the site 2,500 years later, little had changed—except that Karnak’s artifacts were being looted and shipped off to museums a continent away. Whether an Egyptian pasha or a European antiquities dealer, the plunderer was the subject of Frith’s most vitriolic prose.