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Wonderful Things: Howard Carter's Discovery of Tutankhamun's Tomb


The great discoverer of the treasures of King Tutankhamun, Howard Carter, was born on May 9, 1874 CE to Samuel John and Martha Joyce (Sands) Carter in Kensington, England. A sick, home-schooled child, Carter learned to draw and paint from his father, an accomplished Victorian artist. These skills helped Howard Carter in his career as an archaeologist, working at a time when color photography was nonexistent.

His passion for Egyptology was awakened in his youth after witnessing a large collection of Egyptian antiquities housed in the mansion of Lord Amherst, who acquainted him to Percy Edward Newberry, a member of the London-based Egypt Exploration Fund. Newberry was at that time seeking an artist to copy the art within the Egyptian tombs on behalf of the Fund.

Howard Carter first visited Egypt in October 1891 CE, arriving in Alexandria at the age of 17. He began working at the Middle Kingdom tombs in Beni Hasan. Three months later, the young artist was learning the disciplines of field archaeology and excavation from the great Flinders Petrie. Under Petrie, Howard Carter went from artist to become an Egyptologist.

Nevertheless, Howard Carter's career took off at a meteoric pace, becoming main draughtsman and overseer at the site of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahari in Luxor and appointed at the age of 25 as Inspector General of Monuments for Upper Egypt by the Director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, Gaston Maspero.

This is about the time when things took a turn for the worse for Egyptologist Howard Carter. His “stubborn” personality and individual views of his own career and methodologies put him at odds with fellow archaeologists and officials. In 1905 CE, after a bitter dispute with some wealthy French tourists, who complained to higher authorities, Carter was ordered to apologize and refused. His refusal caused him to be assigned to less important tasks, which prompted his resignation. The promising Egyptologist had to resort to his artistic talents to support himself, rather meagerly.

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Maspero did not forget Howard Carter, however, and introduced him to George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, about 1908 CE. Lord Carnarvon was prescribed annual wintertime visits to Egypt by his doctor to aid in a pulmonary ailment.

It was the extraordinary relationship of these two men, the unwavering determination of the Egyptologist and the trust bestowed by his sponsor, that produced the most famous archaeological discovery of all time.

Howard Carter undertook the supervision of Carnarvon's sponsored excavations and by 1914 CE had secured some antiquities for his patron's personal collection. But his real dream was to find the tomb of an ancient young pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, a glorious period of Egyptian history.

Before the name of Tutankhamun, or King Tut, became a household word, this pharaoh was first known through a small faience cup inscribed with the king's name found by American Egyptologist Theodore Davis in 1905 CE. Davis thought he had found the looted tomb of Tutankhamun after he discovered an empty single chamber (KV58) containing just a small cache of gold foils with the names of Tutankhamun and his successor Ay.

Both Carter and Carnarvon suspected that Davies was wrong in assuming that KV58 was in fact the tomb they were after, since Tutankhamun's mummy was not found either among the cache of royal mummies discovered back in 1881 CE at Deir el Bahari or at KV35 (Amenhotep II) in 1898 CE. The missing body of Tutankhamun could only mean that his tomb was was not disturbed when the ancient priests assembled the royal mummies for protection. Furthermore, it was also possible that the tomb's location was forgotten and, therefore, not robbed in antiquity.

Season after season went by until, no longer capable of sustaining another search, Lord Carnarvon gave up hope and returned to Britain. Carter, however, would not give up and persuaded his patron for a last chance.

Only three days after the excavation season began in November 1, 1922 CE, Howard Carter stepped on a platform he found after clearing ancient debris from the construction of tombs. This was the first step of a sunken staircase which, after slow and careful excavation, led the team to witness the intact royal seals of King Tutankhamun for the first time. The telegram Carter send to his patron read: “At last have made wonderful discovery in Valley; a magnificent tomb with seals intact; re-covered same for your arrival; congratulation.”

Howard Carter had to endure 15 excruciatingly anxious days waiting for the arrival of Lord Carnarvon to be there with him for this momentous event in their lives. Clearing work was resumed and in the afternoon of November 26, Howard Carter made a small hole in the sealed doorway, inserted a candle and peered into the dark tomb. The wait was well worth it, for what lay behind the seals of the royal tomb were “wonderful things” indeed.


On November 4, 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter found the entrance to Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.

Digging Deeper

The boy Pharaoh Tutankhamun reigned ca. 1332 to 1323 B.C., his name meaning that he is the living image of the god Amun. “Tut” was likely the son of the rather unique pharaoh Akhenaten, the husband to Nefertiti, who herself ranks seventh on a list of Top 10 African Rulers, Kings and Emperors. Tut’s father’s uniqueness stems from attempting something of a religious revolution. Tut’s father tried to focus worship on the sun disk called Aten in what some scholars identify as a type of monotheism in rejection to the usual polytheism associated with ancient Egyptians. Tut was even originally called Tutankhaten, i.e. the living image of Aten, before changing his name following his father’s death when traditional polytheism was restored. Given that he ascended the throne as a nine or ten-year-old boy and died at age eighteen, he probably did not make many decisions by himself during his short reign. Moreover, the young pharaoh, a possible product of incest died under mysterious circumstances, probably by accident, although some suggest assassination as the culprit.

Tut was subsequently mummified and entombed. He became largely a historic footnote until the Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter’s research in the early twentieth century. Although Carter made the ground-breaking discovery of the tomb on this date just over a hundred years ago, he did not peer inside for a few more weeks. Then, on November 26, 1922, he looked inside, probably the first human to do so in thousands of years. Carnarvon asked Carter if he could see anything. Carter replied, “Yes, wonderful things.”

Howard Carter and associates opening the shrine doors in the burial chamber (1924 reenactment of the 1923 event)

Carter’s meticulous work cataloging the many items in the tomb greatly advanced our knowledge of ancient Egypt. The discovery of Tut’s mummy, along with the beautiful mask of the young man’s face, and the impressive sarcophagi in which he rested undisturbed for centuries are without any doubt the most famous discoveries in all of Egyptology. Artifacts from the tomb have been exhibited throughout the world and have inspired dozens of films and even songs.

Yet, as for the claims that Carter and others associated with the tomb were somehow cursed, well, that is mere myth…

Question for students (and subscribers): Why was discovering King Tut’s tomb important to Egyptology? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

The discovery of Tut’s tomb ranks seventh on a list of the Top 10 Most Important Historical Finds. For more information on this incredibly important find, please read the below listed books.

Carter, Howard and A. C. Mace. The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen. Dover Publications, 1977.


The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen

Howard Carter&aposs The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamens, regrettably, an unknown classic of archeology. Although he discovered and excavated the tomb of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamen, Carter never received the credit he deserved. Although he received honors from Yale and the University of Madrid, he was never sufficiently honored in his own country because he was (1) from the lower classes and (2) had a prickly personality.

I doubt that I have ever read any work of archeology that described the Howard Carter's The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamens, regrettably, an unknown classic of archeology. Although he discovered and excavated the tomb of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamen, Carter never received the credit he deserved. Although he received honors from Yale and the University of Madrid, he was never sufficiently honored in his own country because he was (1) from the lower classes and (2) had a prickly personality.

I doubt that I have ever read any work of archeology that described the care that must be taken in digging out the distant past. What does one do when the pharaoh's leather goods, textiles, and papyrus have turned to dust? What about the thousands of beads when the threads holding them together have rotted away?

In this book, which Carter rushed out in 1923 in response to the worldwide reaction to his discovery of the tomb, he described only the anteroom of the tomb and an annex -- he was yet to actually excavate the tomb. The work was to take him another eight or nine years. Even in this partial survey of the grave goods found in the antechamber, Carter excels in describing the care that was taken every step of the way.

This book deserves to be read by everyone interested in ancient Egypt. . more

Can you see anything? Yes, wonderful things - Howard Carter

A first hand account of Howard Carter, the discoverer of the (almost) intact tomb of Tutankhamen, the child Pharao of Egypt. It is told from the heart and the feelings that Howard felt during the initial discovery and subsequent excavation and a personal account. If you have any interest(s) in archaeology, this is a must read book.

Let me finish with this quote from Howard Carter:

Can you see anything? Yes, wonderful things - Howard Carter

A first hand account of Howard Carter, the discoverer of the (almost) intact tomb of Tutankhamen, the child Pharao of Egypt. It is told from the heart and the feelings that Howard felt during the initial discovery and subsequent excavation and a personal account. If you have any interest(s) in archaeology, this is a must read book.

Let me finish with this quote from Howard Carter:


And this is what he saw:

Source: https://historiek.net . more

Absolutely fascinating read. Howard Carter has a knack for making you feel like you&aposre there and experiencing the discovery of the tomb for the first time yourself. The sense of awe and excitement at finding a near intact tomb and stepping into it for the first time since the 19th Dynasty is there, and I found this a moving aspect of the book.

Carter doesn&apost just focus on the discovery, and also has a chapter on the historical context and what was known about Tutankhamun pre-discovery which was i Absolutely fascinating read. Howard Carter has a knack for making you feel like you're there and experiencing the discovery of the tomb for the first time yourself. The sense of awe and excitement at finding a near intact tomb and stepping into it for the first time since the 19th Dynasty is there, and I found this a moving aspect of the book.

Carter doesn't just focus on the discovery, and also has a chapter on the historical context and what was known about Tutankhamun pre-discovery which was interesting. I enjoyed the explanations of how they preserved many objects, which really puts the issue of archaeologists back in the day all being useless and caring only about gold to bed!

My one and only criticism is that it ends when they've just opened the burial chamber, so there is only the description of the Antechamber. I do believe there is another volume (on my edition of this book it says it's 'Volume I of The Tomb of Tutankhamun' - I've seen a couple of reviews mention this same frustration so it might be possible to seek out volume II and read the rest of the story! I have yet to do so though).

All in all, very interesting and enjoyable to read and it filled me with envy of Howard Carter and, indeed, everyone else involved in the excavation. A must-read for anyone interested in Egyptology. . more

إقرؤا هذا الكتاب كي تعرفوا كم كنا عظماء..كيف حقآ وقف الخلق ينظرون جميعا كيف أبني قواعد المجد وحدي! نظره علي تاريخ وحضارة أمه سبقت جميع الأمم في كل شيء من حبات الخرز التي تزين أصغر قطعه فنيه إلي المقصورات الذهبيه المزينه بالنقوش والرسومات الحيه والتي تجسد حياة ملك عظيم وتاريخ بلد كانت عظيمه ..
فلتقفوا لحظة إجلال وخشوع فأنتم في حضرة جلالة الملك توت عنخ آمون..

لقد أدركنا بشكل واضح جدآ أن أمامنا عملآ شاقآ وأن هناك آلاف الأطنان من الرديم ينبغي رفعها قبل أن نفكر في العثور علي أي شيء ولكن دائ إقرؤا هذا الكتاب كي تعرفوا كم كنا عظماء..كيف حقآ وقف الخلق ينظرون جميعا كيف أبني قواعد المجد وحدي! نظره علي تاريخ وحضارة أمه سبقت جميع الأمم في كل شيء من حبات الخرز التي تزين أصغر قطعه فنيه إلي المقصورات الذهبيه المزينه بالنقوش والرسومات الحيه والتي تجسد حياة ملك عظيم وتاريخ بلد كانت عظيمه ..
فلتقفوا لحظة إجلال وخشوع فأنتم في حضرة جلالة الملك توت عنخ آمون..

لقد أدركنا بشكل واضح جدآ أن أمامنا عملآ شاقآ وأن هناك آلاف الأطنان من الرديم ينبغي رفعها قبل أن نفكر في العثور علي أي شيء ولكن دائمآ كان لدينا أمل في أنه ربما تكلل جهودنا في النهايه بالعثور علي مقبرة ملك ذو وضع خاص، وأن هذا الملك هو " توت عنخ آمون"
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عند هذه اللحظه فإن الزمن كعامل مؤثر في حياة الإنسان يكون قد فقد معناه، فقد انقضت ثلاثة آلاف عام وربما أربعه منذ أن وطئت قدم إنسان لآخر مره الأرض التي نقف عليها.
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لقد كان المستوي الفني الذي شاهدناه بمثابة إعلان لنا عن الإمكانات غير المشكوك فيها للفن المصري القديم وأدركنا من خلال هذا المسح الأولي السريع أن دراسة هذا الموضوع ستنطوي علي تعديل إن لم يكن إنقلابآ كاملآ في كل أفكارنا القديمه.
———————————-
يوجد أمامنا الآن الباب المختوم المغلق وبفتحه نكون قد عبرنا قرونآ من الزمان وأصبحنا نقف قي حضرة ملك كان يحكم منذ ثلاثة آلاف عام، وكان إحساسي الشخصي وأنا أقف فوق المنصه الخشبيه خليطآ غريبآ من المشاعر، وعندئذ وبأيد مرتجفه ضربت أول ضربه.
————————————— . more

I really enjoyed this book. This is the 1977 republication of Howard Carter&aposs original 1923 publication on his discovery and opening of King Tutenkahem&aposs tomb in Egypt&aposs valley of the king&aposs, timed for the 50 year anniversary of Carter&aposs discovery.

My only objection to this book is that in addition to the original prologue and introduction, there is another introduction that updates the story of Tutenkahem after 50 more years of study so, the 2 introductions and prologue take up 75 pages before I really enjoyed this book. This is the 1977 republication of Howard Carter's original 1923 publication on his discovery and opening of King Tutenkahem's tomb in Egypt's valley of the king's, timed for the 50 year anniversary of Carter's discovery.

My only objection to this book is that in addition to the original prologue and introduction, there is another introduction that updates the story of Tutenkahem after 50 more years of study so, the 2 introductions and prologue take up 75 pages before you get to the meat of the story. I admit I skipped the original introduction, which really just a short biography of Lord Cardovan, the person who put up the money for this endeavor.

The actual story begins with a short narrative on the historical context of Egypt at the time of Tutenkahem's reign. This basically tells us what is known of his parentage and his claim to the throne of Egypt. It should be noted that this historical account is not extensive, as that is not the aim of the book.

The story then turns to Carter's efforts in searching for the tomb. All of the archeologists at the time knew King Tutenkahem's tomb was still unaccounted for, but Carter's ability to read the unexplored terrain remaining in th valley of the kings put him in the position to make this find.

The book goes on to describe the actual finding, opening, and documenting of the tomb itself. The descriptions and photographs of the treasures in the tomb, and the time consuming, painstaking efforts required to preserve their findings make for fascinating reading.

As the actual 100 year anniversary of Carter's find approaches, go ahead and relive the excitement of the first hand account of the man who made the discovery. . more


Was the tomb cursed?

In the years that followed, the tomb was fully excavated, its contents analysed and shown to admiring crowds across the world. The body of Tutankhamen himself was subject to rigorous tests. It became clear that he had suffered numerous genetic disorders due to his parents being closely related, and that this – combined with malaria – had contributed to his premature death.

Tutankhamen’s tomb remains one of the most famous archaeological discoveries of all time.

One of the legends that has arisen following the tomb’s discovery is that it was cursed. Many of those involved in its excavation befell strange and unlucky fates: 8 of the 58 involved died within the next dozen years, including Lord Carnarvon himself, who succumbed to blood poisoning just six months later.

Some scientists have speculated the room may have contained radiation or poison: there is no evidence to substantiate this, and many believe the idea of a ‘curse’ was invented by newspapers of the day in order to sensationalise events. Other tombs did have ‘curses’ inscribed on their entrances, presumably in the hope of deterring grave robbers.


The Discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Lord Carnarvon (left) and excavator Howard Carter partnered to find Tutankhamun’s tomb. (Image: Harry Burton (Photographer)/Public domain)

Lord Carnarvon-Howard Carter Partnership

Lord Carnarvon, whose car was the second car ever to be registered in England, had the first car accident in history. And like most wealthy Englishmen, he went to Aswan in Egypt to recover. He found the country quite fascinating and decided to stay and conduct excavations there.

That’s how he ended up hiring Howard Carter, an unemployed excavator who was trying to survive by selling paintings. But they couldn’t excavate in the Valley of the Kings because the concession belonged to Theodore Davis then. So they then excavated in other places. But after five years, they gave up because they hadn’t found much.

Things turned in 1917. The Carter-Carnarvon team got permission to excavate the Valley of the Kings because Theodore Davis had given up the concession. Davis thought the Valley was exhausted, and there was nothing left to be found. Carter and Carnarvon took the concession with one aim: looking for Tutankhamun’s tomb.

The Great Discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Carter had comprehensive knowledge about the Valley of the Kings due to his long experience in excavation and being the chief inspector in the area. He made an accurate map of the valley and determined every spot that had to be excavated. They planned to excavate every inch of the valley, right down to bedrock, to find the long-searched-for tomb of Tutankhamun.

Tutankhamun’s tomb was finally discovered in 1922. (Image: Roland Unger/CC BY-SA 3.0/ Public domain)

Although WWI put a break to their mission, they were finally able to make a breakthrough in 1922. The team had been excavating the valley for several years with no significant gains. Finally, Lord Carnarvon got frustrated and decided to give up. But Carter insisted and asked him to give him one more season. He even pledged to pay for it, although he didn’t have the money. Lord Carnarvon accepted, and they went back to excavation.

The first thing Carter found was a step that he thought would lead to a tomb. When they uncovered all the steps, they found a wall at the end of the steps. The wall was sealed, which made Carter certain that he had found an intact tomb. He wired Carnarvon in England and asked him to come to Egypt immediately.

When Carnarvon arrived, they cut a small hole in the wall. Carter looked through the hole into the tomb and said he saw wonderful things. He said he saw the glint of gold everywhere. That was just the beginning of the discovery of a tomb full of objects gilded with gold.

This is a transcript from the video series History of Ancient Egypt. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Upon entering, the first room was full of furniture like ritual beds on which Tutankhamun was laid. It took them almost an year to clear out the room. An enormous gilded shrine had taken up the entire burial chamber. The wooden shrine was difficult to dismantle because the wood was 1,000 years old, and they had to be very careful. When Carter finally dismantled it, he found another shrine inside it. And then, there were two more shrines inside it.

It took Howard Carter’s team almost an year to clear out the tomb and reach Tutankhamun’s mummy. (Image: Exclusive to The Times/Public domain)

Inside the fourth shrine, Carter found a spectacular thing—a beautiful sarcophagus. Inside it there were coffins nested inside each other. Finally, he got to a stone sarcophagus, which was very difficult to open. But he finally managed to open it. They were finally able to discover the mummy of Tutankhamen, the first pharaoh whose mummy was still in the tomb, which was also found intact.

Tutankhamun: A Mystery

After discovering the tomb, Carter said several times that Tutankhamun eluded him. What did he by this? Up until then, Tutankhamen, a king, was just a mystery, just a name. But Carter wasn’t just a treasure hunter. He was looking for knowledge, and what had eluded Carter and everybody else was that they still didn’t know anything about Tutankhamun. There were no papyri in the entire tomb. There was nothing that gave more information about his parents. In fact, to this day archaeologists continue to debate about Tutankhamen’s lineage.

It seems strange, doesn’t it? A pharaoh is buried in his tomb with literally thousands of objects, no expense spared, and there is nothing historical to tell us about who he was.

There were other things about the tomb that were rather puzzling. For example, no crown was found inside the tomb. Yet he was the king of Egypt. They had his throne and his baby sandals. They even had his baby throne when he was a baby and when he was a boy-king. But where was his crown? A possible explanation to this can be that perhaps the crown was a magical object, passed from king to king. So that was the one object that the pharaoh could not take with him to the next world. But Tutankhamen sure tried to take everything else to the next world.

The discovery that Carter made was, no doubt, a highly valuable one, but it didn’t tell much about Tutankhamun—a mystery that remains unsolved.

Common Questions about the Discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Lord Carnarvon was a wealthy Englishman who went to Egypt for recovery after an accident. He developed an interest in excavations and funded Howard Carter’s excavations to discover Tutankhamun’s tomb .

Tutankhamun’s tomb was first discovered in 1922. However, since the tomb was intact, it took the excavators an entire year to reach the burial chamber.

Tutankhamun is one of the most significant kings in the Valley of Kings. His importance comes from the way his tomb was discovered. His tomb was entirely intact, unlike other royal tombs, which were robbed.


Howard Carter

Howard Carter was born 9 May 1874 in Kensington, London to successful artist Samuel Carter. He was a sickly child and was sent to live with his aunts in Norfolk where he was given private home schooling. He had an artistic streak from an early age and when his father painted a well-known Egyptologist, his life-long interest in the field was ignited.

Carter began his archaeological work in Egypt in 1891, at the age of 17, after his father had found him a job as an artist for an archaeologist. There he worked on the excavation of Basi Hassan, the gravesite of the princess of Middle Egypt, circa 2000 BC. Later he was to come under the tutelage of Flinders Petrie.

In 1899, he was offered a position working for the Egyptian Antiquities service, from which he resigned as a result of a dispute, in 1905.

After several hard years, Carter was introduced, in 1907, to Lord Carnarvon, an eager amateur who was prepared to supply the funds necessary for Carter's work to continue. Soon, Carter was supervising all of Lord Carnarvon's excavations.

Lord Carnarvon financed Carter's search for the tomb of a previously unknown Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, whose existence Carter had discovered.

On 6 November 1922, Carter found Tutankhamen's tomb, the only unplundered tomb of a Pharaoh yet found in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, Egypt.

On 16 February 1923, Carter opened the burial chamber and first saw the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen.

After cataloguing the extensive finds, which was completed in 1932 due to the cornucopia of treasures and artifacts excavated Carter retired from archaeology and became a collector. He spent his later years working in museums and even toured the US giving lectures on Egypt and Tutankhamen, contributing to the nation's interest in the region.

Carter died in England in 1939 at the age of 64 of lymphoma. He was buried in Putney Vale cemetery, London.

On his gravestone, it states: " May your spirit live, May you spend millions of years, You who love Thebes, Sitting with your face to the north wind, Your eyes beholding happiness" and "O night, spread thy wings over me as the imperishable stars."

Google commemorated his 138th birthday with a special doodle on 9 May 2012.


Tutankhamun: “Wonderful Things” From the Pharaoh’s Tomb

This wonderful traveling exhibition from the International Museums Institute vividly brings to life the enigmatic, opulent age of 18th Dynasty Egypt. Ten years in the making, from the artisans of the Pharaonic Village in Egypt and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this dazzling collection of reproductions of Tutankhamun’s “wonderful things” recreates the richest archaeological find of all time.

Accompanied by a lively text, this educational installation featuring about 100 replicas of the pharaoh’s sacred and personal possessions along with associated artifacts from the period surrounding Tutankhamun’s reign reconstructs both the historic discovery of the tomb by Howard Carter and the life and times of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. The exhibition includes such spectacles as the golden Canopic Shrine, the pharaoh’s magnificent state chariot, the iconic golden mummy case, his throne, child’s chair, embalming couch, bed, jewelry, spectacular funerary mask, and the bejeweled royal mummy.

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The Dennos Museum Center seeks to engage, enlighten and entertain its audiences through the collection of art, and the presentation of exhibitions and programs in the visual arts, sciences and performing arts. Support provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and National Endowment for the Arts .


King Tutankhamun

This video gives pupils an understanding of the life and death of King Tutankhamun. It explains how we have been able to find out about life in Ancient Egypt by the things that were buried with pharaohs, like Tutankhamun.

We find out how King Tutankhamun was buried, why certain things were buried with him and what those things tell us about his life.

We learn about the discovery of his tomb in 1922 and who discovered it. We explore a key source called a shabti . These were small ornaments which were buried with pharaohs and tell us about the beliefs and rituals of the Ancient Egyptian people.

We chart the journey through King Tutankhamun’s short life, becoming pharaoh around the age of eight and dying around eighteen years old.

The video also explores the difficulties King Tutankhamun had with regard to his mobility due to a misshapen foot and curved spine and the reported difficulties he had in managing anger and emotions!

Teacher's Notes

This video gives a snapshot of Ancient Egypt and how important the process of burial was, particularly to the pharaohs. It can be used to discuss the process of burial, and how much thought went into preparations and carrying out the process itself.

It will help pupils understand how we find out about the past and the role of sources in this exploration.

We find out about King Tutankhamun’s life through the sources that were found in his tomb - the burial mask, the shabti and other items. This provides opportunities for pupils to explore the role and reliability of sources when carrying out historical enquiry.

Pupils can discuss how early explorers such as Howard Carter would have felt at the time of the discovery and also to consider how they would handle historical remains sensitively - preserving what was found while learning from the remains.

Points for discussion (History Linked)

  • Who was King Tutankhamun?
  • What was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun?
  • Who discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun?
  • How old was King Tutankhamun when he became pharaoh?
  • How old was King Tutankhamun when he died?
  • How heavy was the mask found in the tomb? Can you find something in your classroom that weighs the same?
  • How do some experts think King Tutankhamun died?

Suggested Activities (Cross Curricular opportunities)

Design and make a shabtiUsing illustrations from the animation, pupils are to design and then make a shabti using papier maché / clay. What style is used? What colours are used? What has it been designed to represent to the pupils? Once completed, pupils could present their shabti to their peers.

Pupil ParliamentKing Tutankhamun was a young pharaoh - a very young pharaoh. Pupils could explore if they were the Prime Minister, what decisions would they make about the running of the country. What would your five pledges be to make the country a better place? Each pupil to determine which peer they would vote for based on their pledges and determine the class victor!

Creative WritingWriting a diary entry as if the pupils were Howard Carter on the day of the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun. What thoughts and feelings were going through his mind? How did he feel upon discovery? Did he have any idea of the scale of his discovery? What did the sources he discovered tell him?

Performing ArtsBuilding on the creative writing activity, can pupils in small groups develop a piece of drama to re-enact the discovery of the tomb? What feelings were going through the minds of members of the group? Use freeze frame techniques to help develop deeper thinking.

Material decayMany of the items in the tomb survived for thousands of years and were preserved to be discovered by Howard Carter and his team. Does it matter what material the items discovered were made of? Using a variety of classroom / everyday products (stick of chalk, piece of crockery, metal coin, sugar cube) can the pupils predict which will remain intact for the longest time when placed in a fizzy drink?

Curriculum Notes

This film is relevant for teaching History at KS2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 2nd Level in Scotland.


The fascination for Egyptian civilization

The Egyptian civilization will never cease to fascinate us with the complexity of its myths, elaborate funeral rituals, hieroglyphics and art that has remained unchanged for thousands of years, obeying strict formal principles, and that even today irresistibly attract us.

Mysterious and monumental, it was part of a culture based on polytheism, on the Nile and on after-life beliefs.

The passion for Egyptology sparked in 1798, when Napoleon arrived to Egypt, a forgotten civilization, with the French fleet.

His curiosity was aroused, resulting in several drawings of those peculiar monuments that were released as new culture discovered by him, in an attempt to increase his prestige and power.

Battle of the Pyramids, Louis-Joseph Watteau


I prefer reading


I visited the Melbourne Museum last week to see the exhibition, Tutankhamun & the Golden Age of the Pharoahs. This is apparently the last time the artefacts from Tutankhamun's tomb will leave Egypt and, as I'm unlikely to ever visit Egypt, I had to take the chance to see the treasures. It was an excellent exhibition. I took the audio tour narrated by Omar Sharif, &, as always, this added so much to the experience. I also find the audio tours useful because often the wall panels with information are lit so dimly that I can't read them. It was wonderful to be able to see, in the round, objects I'd only ever seen in books.

The highlight for me, even with all the gold, was a massive granite head of Akhenaten, who may have been Tutankhamun's father. He was certainly the father of Tutankhamun's young wife, Ankhesenamun. Akhenaten is an enigmatic figure who attempted a religious revolution by rejecting the many gods of Egypt in favour of one god, the Aten or sun disc. The art of his reign is also very unusual. Akhenaten & his wife, Nefertiti are often depicted with elongated bodies, long faces & protruding stomachs. The royal couple & their six daughters are often shown in very intimate settings, playing together & worshipping the sun.

Although Akhenaten's religious reforms didn't last, some of the artistic influence is still apparent in the reign of Akhenaten's successor, Tutankhamun. In the exhibition was a gold shrine (it's pictured on the cover of Howard Carter's book above). Tutankhamun & Ankhesenamun are depicted in similarly intimate ways. She kneels before her husband & hands him arrows when he's hunting. Ankhesenamun anoints Tutankhamun with oil. Their postures are relaxed & familiar. We don't know much about Tutankhamun's short reign or their relationship but these images are very touching & suggest that they had a happy relationship.

I've had this copy of Howard Carter's book on the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb on the tbr shelves for quite a while. But, this only proves my point that every book on my overflowing tbr shelves will be read one day when the time is right. Unfortunately I only have Vol 1 of Carter's 3 volume work on the tomb but I also looked through Nicholas Reeves's book, The Complete Tutankhamun, which has also been on my shelves for a very long time. Howard Carter was, of course, the archaeologist who discovered the tomb in 1922. He was working for Lord Carnarvon, whose death from an infected mosquito bite only months after the discovery led to the stories about the curse of the tomb that have kept conspiracy theorists happy ever since.

The story of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb is like a fairy tale. It was the last season that Carter & Carnarvon were going to dig in the Valley of the Kings. Carter had discovered a few clues that suggested to him that there was still at least one more tomb in the vicinity & he believed that it was the tomb of Tutankhamun, a shadowy figure from the Eighteenth Dynasty. His book was written just a year after the discovery & when Vol 1 was published, Carter had still not penetrated to the burial chamber. So, he had no idea of the richness of the sarcophagus or the beautiful gold mask that has become an iconic symbol of Egypt. Carter begins with a history of the Valley of the Kings, the site of the burials of many Pharoahs, most of them plundered by tomb robbers in antiquity. The wonder of his discovery is apparent as he begins his story,

Let me try and tell the story of it all. It will not be easy, for the dramatic suddenness of the initial discovery left me in a dazed condition, and the months that followed have been so crowded with incident that I have hardly had time to think. Setting it down on paper will perhaps give me a chance to realize what has happened and all that it means.

The initial discovery of a flight of stone steps leading to a tomb was exciting enough. There had been no indication that a tomb was there & the steps leading to a passageway filled with rubble was the first indication that there could be a tomb. When Carter's team removed the rubble & discovered a doorway with intact seals on it, his excitement grows. However, his patron, Lord Carnarvon, is in England so all work stops while Carter telegraphs the news & waits for Carnarvon's arrival. When Carnarvon & his daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert, arrived, the scene was set for one of the most famous moments in archeology.

Slowly, desperately slowly it seemed to us as we watched, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway were removed, until at last we had the whole door clear before us. The decisive moment had arrived. With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left hand corner. Darkness and blank space, as far as an iron testing-rod could reach, showed that whatever lay beyond was empty, and not filled like the passage we had just cleared. widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in, Lord Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn and Callender standing anxiously beside me to hear the verdict. At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold - everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment - an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by - 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."

Apparently, Carter had help writing this account from a novelist, Percy White, & that passage shows the touch of the novelist, but it's still a dramatic & heart-stopping moment. The rest of this volume describes the removal of objects from the tomb, how every object seemed more amazing than the one before. The generosity of other archaeologists & museums is acknowledged as well as the torments Carter suffered from tourists & journalists eager to see the treasures & disrupting his work. It was fascinating to read of the discovery of several of the objects I'd seen in the exhibition & to see the photographs (only in black & white) & read the descriptions.

Carter describes the incredibly painstaking work of clearing this chamber. Objects had been thrown around by robbers as they frantically searched for portable gold objects to sell. One of the most fascinating finds was a bundle of cloth containing eight gold rings. These had been wrapped in the cloth by a robber who had left them behind, maybe he was disturbed. The method of wrapping valuables in a headcloth is exactly the same as Carter had seen in the markets of Egypt in his day. Carter's discipline was remarkable because, across the chamber, guarded by two life-sized statues of the pharoah, was a doorway leading, he hoped, to the burial chamber. Carter & his team painstakingly removed, photographed & documented every object in the chamber before approaching the doorway.

At the end of the book, Carter has cleared the first chamber & broken through this other doorway to reveal an enormous golden shrine. He knows that this part of the tomb is untouched by robbers because the seals are all intact so he knows that the burial chamber with the sarcophagus & mummy of Tutankhamun are within. He can have no idea of what he will find within.

I'm very keen to get hold of the other two volumes of this work now as I feel I'm leaving the story only half-told. Nicholas Reeves's book is a beautiful accompaniment as he describes & illustrates all the treasures of the tomb, but Howard Carter's first-hand account of his work is exhilarating to read.


Watch the video: Howard Carter and Tutankhamuns Tomb (January 2022).