Carter before the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun

Undoubtedly, his work was among the most outstanding of the time, as he discovered the tomb of one of the most famous pharaohs today: the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Howard Carter

Howard Carter was born May 9, 1874 in Kensington, London. His father was Samuel Carter, a successful artist. He was a sickly child, in poor health, so he was sent to live with his aunts in Norfolk. There, he received private classes at home and had an artistic education from a very early age. When his father painted a portrait of a famous Egyptologist, Howard became interested in this area.

Great Britain had occupied Egypt in the late 19th century. During this period European interest in Egyptology and everything related to ancient Egypt grew. There were great scientists and archaeologists to carry out excavations in ancient sites.

Carter at the time of opening the sarcophagi

Howard began his archeological career when he found a job on the team of archeologist P. Newberry, as he needed an artist to paint his discoveries. Howard arrived in Egypt in 1891, he was 17 at the time.

There he worked on Middle Empire tombs in Beni Hassan. He also worked on excavations at El-Amarna, Deir el Babri, Thebes or Abu Simbel. There he learned innovative and modern methods to capture reliefs and other finds.

In addition, in 1899 he served as chief antiquities inspector for Upper Egypt of the Egyptian Antiquities Services and would also be chief antiquities inspector for Lower Egypt shortly thereafter. He resigned in 1905.

In 1907 he was hired by a wealthy English aristocrat, Lord Carnarvon, who was fascinated by Egyptology. Thanks to his support and funding, Carter organized the excavation of the tombs of Egyptian nobles. In 1909 he began excavations in a Teban necropolis. In the early years he discovered several royal tombs linked to pharaohs such as Amenhotep I, Thutmose IV or Queen Hatshepsut.

At the beginning of the 1920s he obtained permission to dig in a place known as the Valley of the Kings. There he began digging in a restricted area in the hope of finding the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

The clues and data about the young Pharaoh were very faint and did not really reveal anything enlightening. In addition, the Valley had been excavated previously and nothing related to it had been found, so the expectations of finding something were not too high.

Carter before Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus

In 1922 there was only one place left to excavate, the ruins of some workers’ houses that were in charge of building the royal tombs. A boy who worked as a waterboy began to dig into the ground with a stick, it so happened that he found a step. He then decided to inform Carter and his team of the discovery he had just made.

On November 4, 1922, just a few meters from the tomb of Ramses II, they found stairs that went into the rock. When they finished descending the stairs, they came across a sealed door. This one had the seals broken by old looters, which disappointed them, thinking that the tomb would be looted and nothing of value would remain inside.

However, together with Lord Carnarvon, he decided to open the partition to see what was inside. Upon seeing the inside of the tomb, when asked what he saw, he replied, “I see wonders.

Inside the tomb was an immense collection of treasures belonging to the Pharaoh, belonging to the XVIII dynasty. The tomb consisted of several chambers. Inside was the great trousseau of the young Pharaoh, including trolleys, furniture and even jewels made of solid gold, albeit untidy.

This showed that looters had entered but had to flee before they could do anything. Being Tutankhamen a pharaoh of little importance, when seeing these treasures it gave to think about what type of content would have the tombs plundered of pharaohs much more important as Ramses II or Seti I.

One of the first measures he took was to seal the tomb in order to assemble a large team of professionals to document and preserve everything found. After several weeks they entered the tomb. The most outstanding and fascinating were the three sarcophagi in which the coffin guarding the mummy of the pharaoh was found.

When the latter was opened, they could see the intact mummy covered by the mask of solid gold and colored stones that covered the face of the pharaoh.

Tomb of Howard Carter

Such was the abundance of objects found inside the tomb that it took about ten years to catalogue and document the pieces for subsequent transfer to the Cairo Museum and comprehensive registration. Thanks to this discovery, it was possible to clarify knowledge such as the Egyptian funerary tradition, which kept so many mysteries.

Shortly afterwards, he returned to London and worked as a collector for several museums. He also traveled to the United States to give lectures on Egypt and what he found there, increasing interest in Ancient Egypt.

He died on 2 March 1939 in London. According to the gossip of the people of the time, he died because of the curse of Pharaoh for having desecrated his tomb. He was buried in Putney Vale Cemetery in London.

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