On This Day

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Associated Press
Archaeologist Howard Carter is shown examining King Tut’s sarcophagus.

On This Day: King Tut’s Tomb Discovered

November 26, 2011 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Nov. 26, 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter made a small hole in a sealed doorway and, holding up a candle, shed light onto King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Luxor, Egypt, for the first time in more than 3,000 years.

Tutankhamen’s Tomb Discovered

When Carter first arrived in Egypt, in 1891, as part of a British-sponsored archaeological survey, most of the ancient tombs had been discovered and plundered; it seemed unlikely that any undisturbed burial chambers remained.

Carter, however, believed that the tomb of Tutankhamen, the boy king from 14th century B.C., still laid in the Valley of the Kings, on the eastern side of the Nile River. Sponsored by Lord Carnarvon, a collector of antiquities, Carter began excavating in the area in 1914.

On Nov. 4, 1922, Carter found the first signs of what proved to be Tutankhamen's tomb. But it was not until Nov. 26, after days spent clearing a passage down a long, steep stairway, that he and Lord Carnarvon reached a second sealed doorway, behind which were hidden treasures of the boy king’s last resting place.

In his diary, Carter described the inside the tomb as a “strange and wonderful medley of extraordinary and beautiful objects heaped upon one another.”

“We questioned one another as to the meaning of it all,” he wrote. “Was it a tomb or merely a cache? A sealed doorway between the two sentinel statues proved there was more beyond, and with the numerous cartouches bearing the name of Tut.ankh.Amen on most of the objects before us, there was little doubt that there behind was the grave of that Pharaoh.”

On Feb. 16, 1923, after three months of removing the treasures, Carter was at last able to unseal the door of the burial chamber, revealing King Tut’s solid gold coffin and mummified remains.

Contents of the Tomb

Though they might seem today to be treasures beyond imagining, the contents of King Tut's tomb were modest by Pharaonic standards. In addition to jewelry and gold, Carter discovered a chariot, statuary and weapons.

The most stunning find was a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin, made of solid gold, was the mummified body of Tutankhamen, preserved for 3,200 years.

Biography: Tutankhamen

Tutankhamen ruled Egypt from 1336 to 1327 B.C. His father Akenhaten left the 9-year-old heir with a country in ruins as a result of religious extremism.

The young king was originally named Tutankhaten, or "the living image of Aten," after the sun god. While he was young, the military and priesthood used him as a puppet while they pushed a return to traditional ways and religion. As a result, they renamed him Tutankhamen, after Amen, a traditional god.

Tutankhamen died suddenly at the age of 19, and the circumstances of his death are still debated. A 1968 x-ray revealed loose bone fragments in Tut’s skull, which fueled speculation that he was murdered.

Recent scholarship has found that it is unlikely that Tut died of head trauma; the damage to the skull was more likely caused by the embalmers or by Carter’s excavators. Most scientific theories for Tut’s death focus on disease or infection.

King Tut on Tour

Some of the treasures found in Tutankhamen’s tomb are currently on display in several venues throughout the United States.

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