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|May thy Ka live! Mayest thou spend millions of years, Oh thou who lovest Thebes, seated with thy face turned to the north wind and thine eyes contemplating felicity.|
|Inscription on the tomb of Tutankhamun|
oward Carter had spent many years as an archaeologist working in Egypt. For six years he had worked in the temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri using his artistic skills to make copies of the wall paintings.
In 1917 he was financed by Lord Carnarvon to search for an undiscovered tomb of a Pharaoh. The Valley of the Kings had been searched for many years already. Of the tombs that had been found all had been plundered by tomb robbers in ancient times. Most people considered the valley to have nothing further to reveal.
By 1922 Carter, despite a search involving many native workers, was no nearer to making a find. Lord Carnarvon announced this was to be the last year he would support the search. The final season began on November 1 of that year. Carter's diary recorded the events of the days that followed.
1 November 1922
I enrolled my workmen and was ready to begin.
4 November 1922
Something out of the ordinary happened. A step cut in the rock has been discovered.
5 November 1922
Step succeeded step and by sunset there was disclosed the upper part of a doorway.
6 November 1922
Cable to Lord Carnarvon in England. "A magnificent tomb with seals intact"
23 November 1922
Lord Carnarvon arrives.
24 November 1922
The whole staircase is clear. We made out the name of Tutankhamun.
25 November 1922
We unblocked the door and found a descending passage filled with stone and rubble.
26 November 1922
The day of days. We came upon a second sealed doorway.
27 November 1922
Careful inspection of the Antechamber and the discovery of the Annex.
29 November 1922
3 December 1922
Tomb sealed against thieves.
25 December 1922
The first object was removed from the tomb.
When they reached the second doorway on the 26th of November nobody knew what state the tomb would be in. The blocked doorway would have to be removed piece by piece. Carter later wrote of that day:
It was the day of days. The most wonderful I have ever lived through.
With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left hand corner . . . widening the hole a little I inserted the candle and peered in . . . at first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle to flicker. Presently details of the room emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold - everywhere the glint of gold.
For a moment - an eternity it must have seemed to the others - 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 ......'
There was evidence that thieves had raided the tomb soon after burial but only to take small, easily carried objects. What Howard Carter had discovered was the only complete last resting place of a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. There were more than 2000 separate objects in the four rooms of the tomb. Many were covered in gold. The 'wonderful things' were piled up like junk in an attic and before anything was moved Carter made sure everything was photographed as it had been found.
|The archaeologists' first sight of the treasure.||Dismantled gilt chariots|
found in the south-east
corner of the antechamber.
Carter described what he saw:' . . . exquisitely painted and inlaid caskets; alabaster vases; bouquets of flowers or leaves; beds; chairs beautifully carved; a golden inlaid throne; a heap of curious white oviform boxes; on the left a confused pile of overturned chariots, glistening with gold and inlay.'
|Hear not the cry of mourners at the tomb,|
Which have no meaning to the silent dead...
Then celebrate this fetal time, nor pause-
For no man takes his riches to the grave;
Yea, none returns again when he goes hence.
|"Lay of the Harper"|
n February 1925 work began on the burial chamber of Tutankhamun. Within this chamber stood a shrine that was seventeen feet by eleven feet and nine feet high. Made of wood and covered with inscribed gold Carter described it as '...the most beautiful monument I have ever seen - so lovely that it made one gasp with wonder and admiration'.
Inside the shrine were three others, each inside another, and as each was opened weapons and ornaments for the king's journey to the afterlife were discovered. The fourth and final shrine contained a magnificent red sandstone sarcophagus inscribed with the names and titles of the king. The massive stone lid of the sarcophagus was lifted to reveal the pharaoh's coffin. Two others were nested inside it, the innermost one made of solid gold, beautifully chased and engraved, and about one-eighth of an inch thick.
On the 11th November they were ready to open the golden coffin. Inside the coffin a black resinous substance held the linen-swathed body of Tutankhamun in place, gazed upon by mortal eyes for the first time in more than three thousand years. However, what held everyone's attention was the golden image of the king that had been revealed to them. Covering his head and shoulders was one of the greatest of the world's artistic treasures - the polished gold funerary mask, elegant, calm, remote, and yet breathing with the life of a supremacy that had ended thousands of years before.
Carter:"The mask, a beautiful and unique specimen of ancient portraiture. There is a sad but calm expression suggestive of youth overtaken prematurely by death. Upon it's forehead were the royal insignia, the vulture and the serpent, emblems of the two kingdoms over which he had reigned."
For the next eight days the task of peeling the wrapping from the mummy was undertaken. From within the bandages came ninety seven separate groups of amulets and symbolic jewels. In the process of unwrapping this abundance of wealth the body of the king became mutilated. Respect for the human remains gave way to the intense interest in the treasure. Finally the golden mask was forced away from the face beneath.
|Earlobes:||perforated by circular hole 7.5 mm in diameter|
|Teeth:||wisdom teeth partly developed|
|Height:||1.676 metres (5 feet 6 inches)|
|Age:||about 18 (evidence of bone development)|
Despite the vast wealth of the tomb Tutankhamun was a relatively unimportant king. He reigned for only eight years and died when he was about eighteen. It is difficult to imagine the sort of wealth that must have been buried with some of the really great kings of Ancient Egypt.
It took ten long years to catalogue and conserve the contents of the tomb and by then Carter was plagued by ill health. He died, in London, in March 1939. Nobody from the world of Egyptology attended the quiet funeral of the man who, in the public eye, remains the most famous archaeologist of all. The man who had hunted, and discovered, the great tomb with all it's buried treasure. A discovery that fired, and still fires, the imagination of all who look into the face of Tutankhamun.
t least Carter had the opportunity to gaze upon the mask, Lord Carnarvon did not. In April 1923, in Cairo, he had sickened and died. A mosquito bite had been nicked by his barber's razor; it had become infected, and then pneumonia had attacked Carnarvon's weakened lungs.
His body was returned to England for a far simpler funeral than the pharaoh's. Trailing after it were whispers that caused goose pimples in the dark of night all over the world. From the day of the discovery of the tomb, gossip had whispered of the curse that fell upon anyone who violated a pharaoh's resting place. For years afterward, whenever anyone remotely associated with the discovery died, the story was revived.