Discovering King Tut’s Tomb

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A Brief History

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.

Mummy of Tutankhamun

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

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.

James, T. G. H.  Howard Carter: The Path to Tutankhamun.  Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2001.

Meyerson, Daniel.  In the Valley of the Kings: Howard Carter and the Mystery of King Tutankhamun’s Tomb.  Brécourt Academic, 2009.

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About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.