The Tomb of Tutankhamun

The Tomb of Tutankhamun

When Howard Carter uncovered the remarkably preserved tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, he created a worldwide sensation. The only tomb of its era found intact and full of indescribable treasures, it was also the first major discovery in the age of easy worldwide communication. That, along with rumors of a mysterious curse, helped make Tutankhamun the most popular of the Egyptian pharaohs in the modern world.

Right: the Golden sarca-phogus lid of Tutan-khamun

Thieves invaded Tutankhamun’s tomb fairly soon after his burial. The thieves were caught in the act and official inspectors reorganized the contents and resealed the tomb. Several generations later, workmen constructing the nearby tomb of another pharaoh built their huts over the young king’s place of burial, thus obscuring it. Later flooding in the area erased any evidence of its existence. Tutankhamun’s tomb would remain hidden for more than three thousand years.

Below: the golden throne of the young king found in his mortuary chamber.

On November 4, 1922, workmen uncovered the top step of a staircase which archaeologist Howard Carter followed to discover eleven stairs and sealed door. Stamped on the surface of the doorway was the Jackal-and-Nine-Captives seal of the official guards, but a royal name was not visible. The upper left-hand corner of the door had been re-plastered and resealed, which told Carter that robbers had broken into the tomb in antiquity, but that something important still remained inside. After making a small hole, Carter peered inside and saw a corridor filled with rubble. He curbed his impatience, had his men refill the stairway, and sent the momentous telegram to Lord Carnarvon in England.

Below: the sarcophogus in the tomb as it looks today.

He was not to realize the extent of his discovery until November 26th, when he held a small candle up to a breach in the doorway separating him from the first of the four rooms, checking for noxious gases and then a few seconds later enlarging the opening and peering inside. Carter recorded his first impression in his popular book, The Tomb of Tut.ankh.Amen:

“At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold – everywhere the glint of gold…I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, “Can you see anything?” it was all I could do to get out the words, “Yes, wonderful things.”

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