Major Archaeological Discovery Tomb of Tutankhamen Part 1

About the major archaeological discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen the Eypytian ruler, history of the dig and findings.


Year: 1922

Location: Luxor, Egypt, in the Valley of the Kings

Discoverer: Howard Carter



This telegram, sent by Carter to his sponsor. Lord Carnarvon, on Nov. 6, 1922, electrified the world. Searching amid rubble heaps left by dozens of archaeologists over a span of 100 years, Carter had finally tried one last desperate dig. His area: a small triangle of rocky debris bounded by the tombs of Ramses II, Merneptah, and Ramses VI. Almost by chance, his native laborers cleared away 3 ft. of earth beneath an innocuous workman's hut erected centuries before and found the first of 16 steps cut steeply down into the bedrock. The hidden entry led to a blocked-up, sealed door bearing the special mark that identified the tomb as a royal necropolis. With admirable restraint, Carter went no further. Filling the stairway with rubble again, to prevent looting, he posted a guard and awaited Carnarvon's arrival three weeks later.

On Nov. 25, with Carnarvon present, Carter pulled down the sealed door. Beyond it, he found another rubble-filled passageway 30 ft. long and a second sealed door. Again the barricade was torn away--to reveal a sight that rendered him speechless. By the flickering light of his candle, he saw strangely shaped animal figures and statues and a jumbled mass of objects--all glinting of gold. As his eyes became accustomed to the dim light, gilded couches, gold-plated chariots, and hundreds of other spectacular treasures, strewn haphazardly about the chamber, appeared. They had found the burial place of the boy-king Tutankhamen.

The news went out immediately. For two months, Carter's team photographed, cataloged, and packed the items for shipment to Cairo. With great care, Carter treated the 32-centuries-old objects to preserve them against further decay, as the press reported his every move from tents hastily pitched at the site.

On Feb. 17, with the antechamber now cleared, Carter and Carnarvon broke through into the next sealed room, the burial chamber itself. The sight was unbelievable. The entire room--except for a 15-in. space at each side--was filled by a huge golden shrine 10 ft. 9 in. wide, 16 ft. 6 in. long, and 9 ft. high. Carter opened the folding (but not sealed) doors at the shrine's east end. A second set of doors confronted him, these bolted and sealed. At last Carter's search had reached the ultimate, a point beyond which grave robbers had not been able to penetrate. An undefiled mummy still lay concealed within the shrine.

Lord Carnarvon did not live to marvel at what was to come next; he died just two months later from an insect bite. Despite a series of delays imposed by the Egyptian government Carter continued the discoveries, through the winter season of 1926-1927. The tremendous shrine proved to be actually four shrines, one inside the other, Chinese box-fashion. And inside the innermost was the sarcophagus, a large yellow quartzite block with a rose granite lid that weighed well over a half-ton.

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