(Two parts – please read through to the end.)
Lord Carnarvon asked “can you see anything?”
Howard Carter replied with the famous words: “Yes, wonderful things.”
Carnarvon financed Carter’s work in the Valley of the Kings from 1914, but it was interrupted by World War I until 1917, when serious work was resumed. After several years of fruitless searching, Carnarvon became dissatisfied with the lack of results and, in 1922, he gave Carter one more season of funding to find the tomb he was searching for. (Wikipedia)
On 4 November 1922, Howard Carter’s excavation group found the steps leading to Tutankhamun’s tomb by far the best preserved and most intact pharaonic tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings. He wired Carnarvon to come, and on 26 November 1922, with Carnarvon, Carnarvon’s daughter, and others in attendance, Carter made the “tiny breach in the top left hand corner” of the doorway, and was able to peer in by the light of a candle and see that many of the gold and ebony treasures were still in place. He made the breach into the tomb with a chisel his grandmother had given him for his seventeenth birthday. He did not yet know at that point whether it was “a tomb or merely a cache”, but he did see a promising sealed doorway between two sentinel statues. When Carnarvon asked “can you see anything?”, Carter replied with the famous words: “Yes, wonderful things.” (ibid)
Howard Carter is one of the most influential people in my life. In one of my books, I describe a complicated wish wherein I am able to “pop” into the lives of famous people, thus experiencing their most wonderful moments. (I don’t interfere with their lives in any way – I am sort of a ghost. I disappear during personal/intimate moments.) I would LOVE to be with Carter as he opens the tomb, and carefully explores the interior.
“The next several months were spent cataloging the contents of the antechamber . . . . On 16 February 1923, Carter opened the sealed doorway, and found that it did indeed lead to a burial chamber, and he got his first glimpse of the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun. All of these discoveries were eagerly covered by the world’s press, . . . . Carter’s own notes and photographic evidence, indicate that he, Lord Carnarvon and Lady Evelyn Herbert entered the burial chamber shortly after the tomb’s discovery and before the official opening.”
Carter took excruciating pains to photograph everything, then catalog every item before it was removed. “The clearance of the tomb with its thousands of objects continued until 1932.” (ibid) That is 10 years!
In June of 1978, King Tut toured the US, and our growing family was lucky enough to visit him at the Chicago Field Museum. It was breath-taking, but I wanted so much to linger and spend hours inside, instead of the minutes we actually had. My bucket List includes visiting the boy-king in Egypt, and spending as much time with him as I wish.
If you want the most masterful piece of literature covering this fantastic discovery, I highly recommend the FOLIO SOCIETY version, The Tomb of Tutankhamun. “There have been countless accounts of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, from the sober to the sensational, but none is as powerful as Howard Carter’s own firsthand testimony. He recalls the evidence that first drew him to the Valley of the Kings in 1914; the six seasons of patient, fruitless searching; moonlit encounters with would-be tomb-robbers; and the near-miraculous discovery at the eleventh hour, just as funding was about to run out.” (Folio Society)
If you buy only one reference on this marvelous discovery – this two-volume set is the one. “This two-volume edition features an entire volume dedicated to magnificent colour photography of Tutankhamun’s treasures.” (ibid))
Be sure to watch the awesome 1:38 video before you leave the Folio Society web site.
I could run on literally for days about King Tut and Howard Carter, but I have another point to make, so I will stop here and move on.
If you look very carefully at the photos of the treasures, you will see the extremely careful and detailed etchings carved into the gold. You will see some of the most beautiful art in all of history. The tomb was virtually undisturbed, so the amount of treasure was immense. Surely, the person in this tomb was dearly loved.
It has been suggested that because Tutankhamun was so young, his treasures were actually meant for someone else. Tutankhamun was placed in a tomb already under progress due to time constraints. It doesn’t matter who the tomb was for, the point is, someone was highly respected and this tomb was very, very special. Nothing even close to it has ever been discovered since – nothing.
Now here is where my emotions get all tangled inside themselves. We very seldom bury people with anything valuable anymore. In the Middle East, many people are buried without even coffins. Maybe the looting of Egyptian tombs has scared us from this practice, but about the only thing we leave with the departed today might be a wedding ring or a favorite pin.
Even though we have no treasures in our crypts these days, would we want anyone digging us up? Deceased Native Americans are going through this indignity, but for what reason? They have only been in the ground a few years – what can we possibly learn from digging them up?
So here is my nightmare; if I don’t want to be dug up, why should we dig up Tutankhamun?