It may simply have been the luck of the draw, but no one has probably furthered the interests of Egyptology, and indeed the world’s archaeological focus on Egypt more than Howard Carter. His discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun has inspired almost a century of Hollywood movies, books and media attention for this greatest of all living museums we call Egypt. While Howard Carter’s find of the mostly intact tomb of a pharaoh may have been lucky, it was the result of a dedicated career in Egyptology and the culmination of consistent exploration.
Death Shall Come on Swift Wings To Him Who Disturbs the Peace of the King… – Supposedly engraved on the exterior of King Tutankhamen’s Tomb
The king was only nineteen when he died, perhaps murdered by his enemies. His tomb, in comparison with his contemporaries, was modest. After his death, his successors made an attempt to expunge his memory by removing his name from all the official records. Even those carved in stone. As it turns out, his enemy’s efforts only ensured his eventual fame. His name was Tutankhamen: King Tut.
Archaeologists from Europe became very interested in Egypt in the 19th century. They uncovered the old tombs and explored their deep recesses always hoping to find that one forgotten crypt that had not been plundered in antiquity. They knew that the Pharaohs had been buried with untold treasures that would be of immense artistic, scientific, and monetary value. Always the archaeologists were disappointed.
The search for the missing King
In 1891 a young archaeologist and egyptologist from England, Howard Carter arrived in Egypt. Over the years he became convinced that there was at least one undiscovered tomb. That of the almost unknown King Tutankhamen.
Carter was hired by wealthy English aristocrat Lord Carnarvon, who was fascinated by Egyptology. With Carnarvon’s backing, Carter led the excavation of Egyptian nobles’ tombs. In 1914, Carnarvon received a license to dig at a site where it was believed the tomb of King Tutankhamun rested. Carnarvon gave the job to Howard Carter. Carter hired a crew of workers to help find the tomb but was interrupted by World War I.
Following the war, Howard Carter resumed his excavations, but after several years, Lord Carnarvon grew dissatisfied with the lack of results and informed Carter he had one more season of funding to find the tomb. On November 4, 1922, a boy who worked as a water fetcher on the excavation started to dig in the sand with a stick. He found a stone step and called Carter over. Carter’s crew found a flight of steps that led down to a sealed door, and a secret chamber. On November 26, 1922, Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb, where they found an immense collection of gold and treasures. On February 16, 1923, Carter opened the innermost chamber and found the sarcophagus of King Tut.
He was able to peer in by the light of a candle and see that many of the gold and ebony treasures were still in place. He did not yet know whether it was “a tomb or merely a cache”, but he did see a promising sealed doorway between two sentinel statues. When Carnarvon asked “Can you see anything?”, Carter replied with the famous words:
“Yes, wonderful things!”