A hundred years ago, on November 4, 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
A century ago, on November 4, the British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the entrance to Tutankhamun’s tomb at Luxor. He did so after eight exhausting years of searching. Because it was intact after more than three millennia, the tomb of the young pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty achieved world fame. It was promptly dubbed the Valley of the Kings’ best-preserved tomb by experts. In 1907, Carter began working for Lord Carnarvon, an enthusiastic amateur archaeologist, as supervisor of excavations at Deir el-Bahari, near Thebes. Carnarvon received permits for excavation in the Valley of the Kings in 1914. Carter was rehired as the project’s leader. Although the First World War temporarily paralyzed the work, he was responsible for discovering tombs that had been overlooked in previous expeditions, including Tutankhamun’s.
Years of searching
Several years of searching had not led to any results. Eventually, in 1922, Lord Carnarvon considered withdrawing the funds. Carter finally agreed to finance the Valley of the Kings one more season after an argument with Lord Carnarvon. It was on November 4, 1922, when the team’s water carrier tripped over a stone leading to the discovery of a mysterious staircase. He partially excavated the steps until he found a mud door containing several Egyptian cartouches and seals featuring hieroglyphic writing. As a result, the archaeologist ordered that the stairs be filled in again and telegraphed Carnarvon, who had traveled from England to Egypt.
Yes, I can see wonderful things!
An excavation of the staircase and Egyptian cartouche in the entrance that indicated Tutankhamun’s name was conducted in its entirety on November 24, 1922. On the second day, Carter cut a tiny hole in the upper left corner of the entryway. With the light of a candle, he could glimpse the interior and see golden and ivory treasures. Asked if he could see anything, Carter responded with the famous line: “Yes, I can see wonderful things!” Tutankhamun’s tomb, later known as KV62, was discovered by Carter. An official from the Department of Antiquities was to visit the tomb the next day. The burial was protected so no one would enter. Nonetheless, the night prior to the officials’ arrival, Carter, Carnarvon, their daughter, and aide Callender apparently trespassed. They became the first people in three millennia to gain access to the burial.
More than 5,000 objects
An Egyptian official inspected the tomb the next morning, November 27. Light from electric lamps illuminated a vast collection of objects, including divans, chests, thrones, and altars. Two Tutankhamun statues flanked a sealed door to the sarcophagus chamber, indicating that adjoining rooms existed. The tomb was intact even though signs of looting were present in ancient times, and it was estimated that it contained more than 5,000 objects. A number of dignitaries and Egyptian officials attended the official opening of the tomb on November 29.
As Carter became aware of the enormity of the task, he requested assistance from Albert Lythgoe of the Met Museum’s excavation team, who was working nearby. At the same time, the Egyptian government sent the analytical chemist Alfred Lucas. The door was opened by Carter on February 16, 1923, confirming that he was heading for Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus. In the Valley of the Kings, this tomb was the most intact and well-preserved among all those found. A number of publications were angered by Lord Carnarvon’s decision to sell the exclusive to The Times.