Tutankhamun: His Tomb And Treasures
The tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun was discovered on November 4, 1922 in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter. Carter was appointed as chief inspector of Upper Egypt and because of this he discovered many new graves. But his greatest discovery was Tutankhamun tomb.
But first a little background on the location where he made the discovery.
The Valley of the Kings is a region of Egypt located on the western bank of the Nile. It sits at the height of Thebes (now Luxor). The valley is formed by a fault line in the Libyan desert that leads to the Nile valley.
The Valley of the Kings is known to be home to New Kingdom rulers, but it is also home to the tombs of some wives and children of pharaohs, as well as those of nobles who the pharaohs wanted to reward for their service. It was from the period of the reign of Ramesses I that the Valley of the Queens was used, although some wives were still buried with their husbands afterwards.
The oldest known tomb on the site is that of Thutmose I and, from Thutmose III, with the exception of Akhenaten, all the pharaohs of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties were to be buried there (approximately from 1539 to 1075 BCE). The last known tomb of a pharaoh is that of Ramses XI (tomb KV4).
As for the last tomb discovered, it is the KV64, the tomb of the lady Nehmes Bastet, a singer at the temple of Karnak having lived during the XXII dynasty.
This was a rich site with many centuries of history and as you can imagine it was seen as a place where gods converged. Pharaohs were god kings sent from the heavens.
I know what you are asking: Who is this Tutankhamun and why is he talked about?
Tutankhamun was the son of Pharaoh Akhenaten, and was nicknamed the heretical pharaoh. The reason was simple. He dared to forbid the worship of gods as it had long existed, instead ordering that a single god would be worshiped. of which he would have been the embodiment. Some see it as a madman tyrannical obsession for power while others prefer to see it as a precursor to monotheism. It was believed until very recently that Tutankhamun was also the son of Queen Nefertiti, but this is not the case. He would be the son of his father's sister which sounds terrible I know but under the pharaohs was quite normal. That made him the son of his paternal aunt and his mother's nephew. I will stop before it gets any more confusing but you can see that their family tree was more a family bush.
When Akhenaten died, Tutankhamun came to power at only 9 years of age.
One thing that draws us to this enigmatic ruler is that his reign was short-lived as he died at the age of 19. As you can imagine, it is rather difficult to discover the true cause of his death, though we do now that it was premature death. Some claim malaria, others a bone disease. A new hypothesis has recently that link his death to a chariot accident.
It is clear that Tutankhamun owes his post-modern fame to the interest that came from the discovery of his tomb. An incredible story filled with intrigue that led a young Carter on a quest and subsequent discovery of a fabulous tomb filled with treasure.
Howard Carter was an interesting man who discovered his passion for Egypt at a very young age. A simple draftsman on his first trips, he quickly gained momentum and was appointed inspector general of monuments in Upper Egypt. A job he took very seriously. Unfortunately, Howard was not the type to make concessions and he will very quickly gave his resignation, following a banal incident with French tourists!
In 1905, a group of wealthy French people entered a site for which Carter was responsible. Not wishing to respect the visitation times that Carter had drafted, the tourists left disillusioned and ask to be reimbursed as they had not been able to take full advantage of the site due the bad lighting. Howard deemed this request incongruous, and refused to give them a reimbursement which caused a fight broke out. Howard to apologize and resigned in the aftermath, returning to his beloved drawings!
He owed his salvation to George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon. This rich lord, suffered from the injuries sustained from a car accident that almost cost him his life, discovered a passion for Egypt in the aftermath. Eager to invest in these lands full of archaeological treasures, he agreed to meet Howard Carter. The two men began excavations in the Valley of the Kings in 1915.
In 1922, no major discoveries allowed them to recoup their expenses and Lord Carnavon seriously thought about withdrawing his support. At the insistence of his accolade, he nevertheless agreed to continue the research for one final year. With the end of the year approaching, Carter decided to go and survey the area around the tomb of Ramesses VI, where no one had yet searched and this, for practical reasons: It as a place was very popular with tourists. Organizing excavations there required the closure of the site completely which was difficult under the best circumstances to achieve. It was practically a scandal! But being his last chance to prove himself and maintain his status as an archaeologist everything was on the line and he took the risk. As if in a film a miracle occurred on November 4, 1922, workers came face to face with a door. What was more impressive was that it was completely intact, having remained sealed for over 3000 years, last used during the death rites of the pharaoh Tutankhamun!
One plausable reason it remained closed is because Tutankhamun was known for the curse that bears his name. It warned that people who have approached the tomb would died in strange (supernatural) circumstances when they tried to desecrated his tomb.
The legend of a "curse of the pharaohs" was born with the death of Lord Carnavon. Newspapers fueled the interest seeking to increase their sales at the time of discovery.
The newspapers then reported of an inscription — which was a non-existent fabrication — which proposed to have stated: "Cursed be those who disturb the rest of a Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease that no doctor can diagnose." It is rumored that the Lord's dog, who remained at Highclere Castle, in Hampshire, cried at the time of his master's death. At that moment, the lights of the castle as well as those of Cairo went out. In the following decade, the press attributed some thirty deaths to the curse.
Epidemiologist Mark Nelson, of Monash University in Melbourne, studied the history books and followed the path of forty-four Westerners reported by Howard Carter to be present in Egypt during the expedition from February 1923 to November 1926. They were members of the expedition, members of the press, members of Belgian royalty, British officials and experts employed by the Egyptian government.
Twenty-five of them attended one of the four events that could expose them to the mummy's curse: at the opening of the tomb, when Tutankhamun's sarcophagus was opened, when the three golden coffins were opened, and when the mummy of Tutankhamun was examined. Out of the reference group they all died at an average age of 70, while the other nineteen died at an average age of 75 years.
Carl Nicholas Reeves, in The Complete Tutankhamun, demystifies the curse, pointing out that Lady Evelyn Herbert, daughter of Lord Carnarvon, who was present at the opening of the tomb, died at the age of 79, that Alan Gardiner, who studied the inscriptions of the lived to 80 years and Douglas Derry, who autopsied Tutankhamun's mummy, reached 87.
Howard Carter a talented archaeologist of his time is considered today as a mere treasure hunter despite the major discovery he is credited with and his diligence in preserving excavation sites.