The Discovery of Tutankhamun

The Discovery of Tutankhamun

Howard Carter was an English archaeologist who was employed by Lord Carnarvon to oversee excavations in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings that had been explored extensively during the 19th century. The tombs of several Pharaohs had been discovered in the area, although these had been broken into and robbed across the previous centuries.

After years of searching the area, between 1907 and 1922, Carter had met with little success, but in November 1922 his excavation team were excited by the discovery of a series of stone steps leading downwards into a rock face. Carter notified Lord Carnarvon who immediately travelled to the site and on 26th November a small breach was made in a doorway found at the bottom of the steps.

Carter, with Lord Carnarvon just behind, peered into the area behind the door using a candle and was electrified to see the glint of gold and ebony emerging from the darkness.

Finally, on 16 February 1923, Carter and his team opened the doorway and entered the room that had been sealed for more than 3000 years – the fabulous tomb of Tutankhamun, Pharaoh of Egypt around 1330 BC.

The tomb was a veritable treasure trove that had remained largely intact down the centuries. The 5398 individual items within included a solid gold death mask, jewellery, wooden thrones, model boats, chariots, food, wine and sandals. Many of these were intended to assist the Pharaoh in the afterlife. The mummified body of Tutankahmun himself was found within the burial chamber.

The discovery produced a worldwide sensation, and generated a great popular surge in the interest and study of ancient Egypt. Replica Egyptian jewellery became popular in the west during the 1920’s and 30’s and copies of the colourful Egyptian hieroglyphics were big sellers as framed wall pictures.

The tomb of Tutankhamun proved to be the best-preserved example of a Pharaoh’s tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings.


Image: Golden Mask of Tutankhamun in the Egyptian Museum, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.