since the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, by Howard Carter,
in November 1922, the king and his treasures have dazzled
the world. Retracing the steps that led to the find ....
Carter & his assistants
he looked through the small hole, Carter was at first unable
to distinguish specific objects, because the pale light cast
off by the candle flickered constantly. But he soon realized
that he was looking, not at wall paintings, but at three-dimensional
objects. They appeared to be enormous gold bars stacked against
the wall opposite the entrance. Dumb-founded, and transfixed,
he just stood there muttering, "wonderful, marvelous, my God,
1997, special events in Luxor marked the 75th anniversary
of this remarkable event. One of the highlights was the opening
of the Howard Carter house on the west bank of the River Nile,
where the famous British archaeologist stayed during excavations
in the Valley of the Kings situated not far from the tomb
is undoubtedly one of the most famous rulers of Ancient Egypt,
but as Howard Carter noted: "We might say with truth that
the one outstanding feature of his life was that he died and
was buried". More is known about him in death than in life.
His tomb was discovered nearly intact, with a breathtaking
5,000 items crammed inside, ranging from gilt chariots, couches
and chairs, to chests, statues, pottery, alabaster and gold.
story of the discovery dates back to 1917, when Howard Carter,
a monuments inspector, was supervising excavations begun by
Theodore Davis, a rich American patron of archaeology who
held the concession to excavate in the Valley of the Kings
until 1914, marking many notable discoveries. As soon as Davis
relinquished the concession, Lord Carnarvon, who was working
with Carter at the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut in
the Deir EI-Bahri area, took over and became sponsor of the
expedition for Carter. For six fruitless seasons, Carter searched
for the tomb of the young Pharaoh. But in their last year,
just as they were about to give up all hope of ever finding
anything, and workers' huts were being removed on the morning
of 4 November 1922, an Egyptian worker came with good news:
a tomb had been found.
6 November, Carter sent his historic cable to Lord Carnarvon
telling him about the discovery, and on November 24 they went
together with Lord Carnarvon's daughter to unseal the doors
of the tomb - and the rest, quite literally, is history. Ever
since its discovery, people from all over the world have been
fascinated by the treasures of the young Pharaoh, which still
have an almost magnetic attraction for visitors of the Egyptian
Museum in Cairo.
by this global interest, officials decided to organise the
famous exhibition "Treasures of Tutankhamun" that travelled
outside Egypt to Paris in 1967, the British Museum in 1972,
to four cities in the Soviet Union in 1973, and to seven in
the 55 masterpieces chosen were at the National Gallery of
Art in Washington DC, nearly a million visitors viewed them
in 16 weeks. The tour lasted for 3 years,
the late Egyptologist Labib Habachi to comment "Tutankhamun
has been one of Egypt's greatest ambassadors!"
the tomb itself, like many others in the necropolis, has been
subjected to various forms of damage over the years. The Valley
of the Kings is known to have suffered from floods and earthquakes.
More recently humidity and the effects of mass tourism are
having a detrimental effect on the area.
about the condition of the tomb, the Getty Institute devised
a scheme in 1992 to save the tomb. During the same year, the
Egyptian government announced a 5-year project, with experts
from the Institute and in the Supreme Council of Antiquities
(SCA) spending up to 18 months studying the tomb's wall painting
and comparing their current state with photographs taken when
the tomb was first opened. The next 18 months were to be spent
treating the painting to try to slow down the deterioration.
The team would then continue to monitor the tomb, for perhaps
a further two years, before any decision was made on whether
to allow it to be opened to tourists.
5-year plan remained just that - a plan. The unique tomb "has
been open to tourists from all over the world from 6 am to
6 pm," said Mohamed EI-Saghir, Head of Antiquities in Upper
Egypt, who believes that "the tomb does not need restoration;
there is continual checking and inspection on the part of
the SCA. Like other tombs in the valley, glass has been installed
on the walls to prevent touching, and wooden floors have been
installed to prevent dust from rising."
years ago a suggestion was made to build a replica of Tutankhamun's
tomb on the necropolis, but after months of discussion at
various levels, the idea was shelved, the argument being that
tourists come all the way to Egypt to see the real thing not
an imitation of the tomb has been reconstructed a few kilometers
south of Cairo in Dr Ragab's Pharaonic Village, complete with
replicas of its contents, based on photographs and documentary
evidence of the tomb as it was when first opened. The fascination
and mystique that has surrounded the boy king since 1922 look
set to continue well into this millennium.
its Structure and decorations, the tomb is one of the least
impressive. It is the immense treasures of art and archaeology
it has yielded, that have made it the most famous. The tomb,
discovered in the early part of the 1900's, had been hastily
prepared for a Pharaoh of secondary importance, who died earlier.
The only room to be decorated was the burial chamber, one
decorations show Ay, the second husband of Nefertiti and successor
to Tutankamun, performing the "opening of the eyes and mouth"
ceremony on the mummy in the guise of Osiris. The tomb had
no sooner been filled with its furnishings and sealed than
it was "visited" by the thieves. They were evidently disturbed
and succeeded in making off with only a few objects. Summarily
redecorated and sealed anew by the priests, it was buried
a hundred years later by debris when the tomb of Ramses IX
was built higher up. The waste material cancelled all traces
and it was forgotten for 3000 years, until it was brought
back to light in 1922 thanks to Howard Carter's experience
discovery of the tomb in a valley that had already been thoroughly
'excavated' brought the archaelogist great fame, but also
the bitter realization of just how much had been lost to mankind
when the tombs of Pharaohs as great as Amenophis III, Seti
I, Ramses II and Ramses III were looted. The treasures found
are now in the Cairo Museum.